Protection of children is Board’s priority

John Greenwell
John Greenwell

PROTECTING the next generation of adults is a key priority for the region’s Licensing Board after the first ever Scottish Borders Alcohol Profile showed that some children as young as 13 had drunk excessively at least once.

With statistics showing that almost half of the Borders adult population regularly drink outwith recommended Government limits and 83 per cent of 15-year-olds admitting to having a drink, the Profile made worrying reading for members of the Scottish Borders Licensing Board when they met last week.

Inspector John Scott and Susan Walker, Alcohol and Drugs Partnership Development Officer at NHS Newstead, Melrose.

Inspector John Scott and Susan Walker, Alcohol and Drugs Partnership Development Officer at NHS Newstead, Melrose.

Although the Borders rate of alcohol-related harm is lower than the Scottish average, from June-October last year, 513 attendances at the emergency department of the BGH were attributed to excessive alcohol consumption. Perhaps most worryingly, 16 of these were children aged 15 and under.

Protecting children from harm is one of five key objectives for the Scottish Borders Licensing Board along with preventing crime and disorder; securing public safety; preventing public nuisance and protecting and improving public health and board member, mid-Berwickshire Councillor John Greenwell said it was the hardest to police.

“When it comes to children there are so many other factors involved - their family, friends; they have all sorts of pressures on them,” he told ‘The Berwickshire’.

“The problem is that in many cases alcohol is freely available to the youngsters at home or at a friend’s house. The children who turn up at A&E aren’t ones who’ve been drinking in licensed premises; they have been drinking in someone’s house or outside.

“Police in the region are fantastic at monitoring where children tend to congregate and also at cracking down on so-called ‘responsible adults’ who are prepared to buy alcohol for them.

“Teachers and social workers can also do their best to get the message across but it’s my belief that the problem often lies with the family. We need to press upon them the dangers of alcohol abuse.”

Of the school pupils surveyed for the profile, there was a reduction in the number of 15-year-olds who reported that they usually drank at least once a week down from 39 per cent in 2006 to 17 per cent but of the pupils who had ever had an alcoholic drink, 25 per cent of 13-year-olds and 53 per cent of 15-year-olds reported that they had consumed five or more drinks on the same occasion in the past 30 days.

“That’s the biggest worry; that there are children who are consuming alcohol regularly,” Councillor Greenwell continued.

“It’s our duty as a licensing board going forward that we educate the younger generation and protect them as they get older as they are our future.”