DCSF issues final call for views on underage drinking

The Department for Children, Schools & Families is calling all key stakeholders and partners to have their say and get involved with the consultation on alcohol and young people before the closing date of 23rd April 2009.

DCSF has already had an excellent response to the consultation with over a third of feedback being generated by young people themselves. This clearly demonstrates that young people are concerned about issues surrounding alcohol consumption and are keen to have their say on the matter.

Comments to date suggest that those participating in the consultation understand the guidance and feel that the messages are clear. There is also a strong suggestion that introducing alcohol at a younger age within the confines of the family home may be beneficial to teaching children how to maintain a safe and healthy relationship with alcohol as they grow older, however this point is still up for debate.

Anyone with a view on alcohol is being urged to comment on the consultation at and have a say on how to best communicate a range of information and advice on alcohol for children and young people.

Whilst an alcohol-free childhood is recommended by Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, the reality is that by the age of 15 many children have already consumed alcohol and substantial numbers drink weekly.

A recent study found that students who drank frequently were over 3 times more likely to say they were behind in school work than more moderate drinkers[1]. Alcohol is also linked to missing school, with 60% of pupils who had truanted in the last year having drunk alcohol in the last week compared to 17% of those who had never truanted[2].

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that schools should ensure that alcohol education is an integral part of the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education curricula. These messages are also set out in the Government’s Drugs: Guidance for Schools, and the recent review of Drug and Alcohol Education. Professionals working in all children’s services also need to be able to identify children and young people with alcohol related problems and make appropriate referrals to support services.

Government now wants to ensure that they have reached as many people as possible through their consultation process.  The aim is to get as many opinions as possible in order to help communicate the guidance from the CMO in the most effective and influential way possible as well as to provide appropriate information on alcohol to parents and young people. This will in turn help influence young people to make sensible decisions and reduce the harm that young people and communities face from excessive drinking at a young age.

The five point medical guidance (see below) forms the basis of the consultation which was launched by Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls; Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, and the Chief Medical Officer.

The guidance has been produced in response to a commitment in the Youth Alcohol Action Plan (June 2008) which identified that parents did not want government to decide when or how their children were introduced to alcohol. Instead, they wanted clear messages on issues including:

  • The age children and young people can start to drink alcohol
  • How much is sensible for young people to drink
  • How far parents or carers should supervise young people’s drinking

The consultation addresses messaging around these, with the aim of creating guidance which is successful in reducing the negative impact of alcohol on young people, families and the community.

The Chief Medical Officers’ Guidance on the Consumption of Alcohol by Children and Young People advises:

  • An alcohol-free childhood is the safest option – if children drink alcohol, it shouldn’t be before they reach 15 years old;
  • For those aged 15 – 17 years old all alcohol consumption should be with the guidance of a parent or carer or in a supervised environment;
  • Children aged 15 – 17 years old should never exceed adult recommended daily maximums. As a general guide, children aged 15 and 16 should not usually drink on more than one day a week, children aged 17 should drink on no more than two days a week;
  • Parental influences on children’s alcohol use should be communicated to parents, carers and professionals. Parents and carers need advice on how to respond to alcohol use and misuse by children; support services must be available for children and young people who have alcohol related problems and their parents

For more information or to get involved before the closing date of 23rd April 2009, please visit: or email

[1] Perkins HW. Surveying the damages: A review of research on consequences of alcohol misuse in college populations. Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 2002(Suppl. 14):91-100.

[2] NHS (2008) Statistics on Alcohol. The Information Centre for Health and Social Care.


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