Cuts to youth services have been blamed for an increase in alcohol-related hospital admissions among young people from England’s poorest families.
Addaction says cuts to youth services in depived areas has fuelled the problem. Image: Jim Varney/ posed by models
Figures released by public health minister Anne Milton show that 17.5 per cent of under 18s who were admitted to hospital with alcohol-related problems in 2010/11 came from the most deprived 10 per cent of families, up on 2009/10's figure of 16.5 per cent.
Over the same period, the proportion of young people from the UK's richest 10 per cent of families who were admitted to hospital for alcohol related reasons stayed at six per cent.
Sheryl Dago, national development manager at the charity Addaction, believes a swathe of cuts to youth services in areas of high social deprivation is a factor in the increase.
She said: "The importance of education and prevention work in addressing alcohol problems among young people cannot be underestimated, but this work has been affected by cuts to youth services and the alcohol prevention work they carry out. I think there is a link between these figures and the cuts."
She is calling for greater government investment in alcohol prevention projects that target young people and closer collaboration between different agencies. "What also needs to improve is partnership work, with the voluntary sector, street pastors and accident and emergency departments all linking up better to help young people with problems with alcohol," Dago added.
Earlier this year Addaction launched a three-year project in Barnsley, Liverpool and Cornwall called Reach Out, which focuses on building such partnerships and targeting young people through outreach services.
Dago hopes evidence from the project and other outreach alcohol education projects will provide ministers with a strong business case for investing in prevention services.
She said: "There needs to be much more evaluation to show the social return on investment of prevention and education work."
But a spokesman for the Department for Education said it was already encouraging local authorities to prioritise prevention work.
"We have made it clear that local authorities should prioritise early intervention to help disadvantaged young people - we know out-of-school youth services have a significant positive impact on young people's engagement in learning and their outcomes in later life.
"Local authorities already have a clear duty to provide services for young people and we've given them complete freedom over their budgets so they can target taxpayer's money on those who need it most."
The figures, revealed in the House of Commons in an answer to a question from Conservative MP for Epping Forest Eleanor Laing, also showed an increase over the past decade in the proportion of girls admitted to hospital for alcohol-related reasons.
While girls made up 50 per cent of such admissions in 2002/3 this had climbed to 54 per cent by 2010/11.
Siobhan McCann, head of campaigns at alcohol education charity Drinkaware, called on parents to do more to warn their children about the dangers of alcohol abuse.
She said: "Parents have an important role to play in delaying the age of their child's first drink because young people who start drinking at an early age drink more, and more frequently, than those who delay their first alcoholic drink.
"We also know that parents are drinking role models, so it's crucial they are aware just how influential they can be on their kid's drinking behaviour."