Teen volunteers could help cut down underage drinking

AS concerns grow over the number of young people binge drinking and getting access to alcohol while underage, volunteer teens will begin test purchasing alcohol throughout the district in a bid to tackle the issue.

Local licensees will now be required to sign up to a Code of Practice, schools will be vistied as part of the awareness campaign and more information will be presented to address the problem.

Banbridge District Council has come together with representatives from Rhythm, local volunteers working with young people, local licensees, the Southern Health Trust, the PSNI and REACT in order to look at ways to reduce underage drinking and promote a culture of more responsible consumption of alcohol for those who are of the legal age.

Local youth worker Eimear McCurdie welcomed the new initiative, saying the range of night-time activity in the town makes the temptations for young people all the stronger.

“There is that pressure on young people to go out at a younger age and to try and get into places serving alcohol,” she said. “Young people, especially girls, look a lot older now and I definitely think a push on making sure people are id’d when they try to buy alcohol at an off-licence or try to get into a nightclub or wherever cano only be a good think.

“It needs to be an all-year round approach too, it can’t be something that happens for a few months and then is forgotten about.”

Liam Hannaway, Chief Executive of Banbridge District Council said, “We welcome this opportunity to work together to make a real difference to attitudes in relation to young people’s drinking. We are hoping that through working together in a more joined up way that we can really impact on young people, their parents and those few individuals who do supply alcohol illegally or irresponsibly to young people.”

Local Policing Inspector Jacqui Gillespie called on people to act responsibly when it comes to alcohol.

“We are delighted that Test Purchasing is now being introduced and see it as a valuable addition to our campaign to prevent and deter underage drinking.

“The support of the community is also invaluable,” she said.

“There are instances where people of legal age purchase alcohol with the intention of supplying it to vulnerable minors and I would ask the community to remain vigilant and report any instances of this nature to us or Crimestoppers.

“I would also ask parents to take a few minutes and speak to their children about the dangers and consequences of underage and excessive drinking and ensure you know where your children are and who they are spending time with.

“This will help to discourage your child from becoming involved with alcohol, and possibly antisocial behaviour.”

Speaking on behalf of local licensees, Michael Johnson of the Coach said businesses are very supportive of the campaign.

“The local licensed businesses of Banbridge are only too delighted to be involved in a co ordinated campaign surrounding the dangers and difficulties of underage consumption and supply of alcohol. Leading primarily to a reduction in the availability of alcohol to under 18s.

“It would be our expressed desire to work in partnership, as we have done so to great effect on other projects in the past. With all relevant statutory, regulatory and voluntary organisations. In an effort to address this serious social problem.

“Futhermore, we would seek the support and assistance of those licensed multi-national supermarket businesses that also operate within the Banbridge District.”

For further information on the work that is being planned, please contact Alison Beattie, Policing and Community Safety Partnership on 028 40620246.