The county’s latest Community Alcohol Partnership has been launched in Tonbridge, following similar projects in Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Herne Bay and Snodland.
Representatives from a range of agencies gathered at Tonbridge Castle to mark the launch of the scheme which is aimed at preventing underage drinking through a mix of education, enforcement, community engagement and by providing diversionary activities for young people.
The CAP aims to raise awareness in young people of the risks of drinking alcohol, reduce incidents of alcohol sales to young people, reduce proxy purchasing of alcohol for young people who are under 18, reduce anti-social behaviour associated with alcohol consumption and improve the public’s general understanding of different alcohol strengths and the number of units in different drinks.
In the lead-up to the launch, members of the CAP visited local licensed premises and retailers to engage with them about the new partnership and to let them know how they can be involved.
KCC Trading Standards have also played an important role in the CAP by supporting and advising local retailers and carrying out a mystery shopper exercise to assess whether ID checks are being carried out appropriately in the town.
Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council Leader Nicolas Heslop, MP Tom Tugendhat and CAP national chairman Derek Lewis were joined by representatives from local agencies, businesses and organisations who will work together to manage and run the CAP.
There was also a performance from Hillview School for Girls and Tonbridge Grammar School which helped to show the key involvement that schools play within the CAP and in educating young people in the area.
Cllr Heslop said: “Underage and irresponsible drinking is not a huge problem in Tonbridge, but the risks and dangers of the issue should not be underestimated.
“The formation of the new CAP is about preventing these issues, by working in a more informed way and proactively coming up with actions to stop the problems before they grow. Over time, with the support of local licensed premises’ owners and parents, the CAP hopes to improve attitudes and see a significant change in behaviour.”
Mr Tugendhat said: “Protecting young people from the devastating effects of alcohol is an important part of parenting. But it isn’t easy in a society where binge drinking is normal.
“British children are more likely to binge drink or get drunk than children in most other European countries, which can seriously damage their health and development and increase their risk of excessive consumption in later life.
“As we know, alcohol consumption impacts on a wide range of issues, and for young people this can range from underperformance at school and later exclusion from the job market, to mental ill health and homelessness. I welcome CAP’s joined-up, partnership approach to addressing this issue and look forward to seeing the impact of their work in the future.”
The CAP will be run by a partnership of agencies including Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, Kent County Council, Kent Police, the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group and the NHS Kent and Medway. The CAP aims to change attitudes to drinking by:
- advising young people on sensible drinking
- supporting retailers to reduce sales of alcohol to underage drinkers
- promoting responsible socialising
- empowering local communities to tackle alcohol related issues
The programme will also include an educational element by working with:
- Young people to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking alcohol, proxy purchasing and the support available
- Parents so that they know how to discuss these issues with their children and
- Managers and owners of licensed premises to ensure that they understand their responsibilities and how they can avoid selling to underage young people.
There are now more than 150 CAPs across the UK, which have enjoyed considerable success. Tonbridge CAP is the second in the borough – the other being in Snodland which has been running successfully since 2012.
To report proxy alcohol or underage alcohol sales or to discuss other related issues, please contact the Tonbrige and Malling Community Safety Partnership by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01732 844522.