IN THE PAST two years, 1229 alcohol-related crimes have been committed by children in Wales.
Details of the crimes – which range from rape and assault to criminal damage and possession of a weapon – were made public following a Freedom of Information request from the Welsh Conservatives.
‘A RUINOUS EFFECT ON YOUNGSTERS’
The data from each of Wales’ four police forces show that children as young as 10 are accessing alcohol and committing violent crime.
Between 2014 and 2016, North Wales Police reported 375 incidences of crime committed by people aged 18 and under; South Wales Police reported 250 incidences; Dyfed- Powys Police reported 182; while Gwent Police reported 105 incidences in the last year alone.
Prevalence of crimes committed by underage drinkers was highest in Carmarthenshire (137 arrests), followed closely by Wrexham (113 arrests), then by Bridgend (106 arrests).
Some of the more disturbing crimes recorded were 11 accounts of rape in north Wales – with one offender aged just 13; five offences of racially or religiously aggravated incidences in south Wales, including actual bodily harm and beatings; 10 offences of drug possession in Dyfed- Powys; and four arrests for drink driving in Gwent.
Angela Burns AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Health, said: “It’s clear from the data that alcohol is having a ruinous effect on many Welsh youngsters and the communities in which they live.
“As these crimes demonstrate, underage drinking is fuelling some heinous antisocial behaviour at a huge cost to the public purse and to the victims they affect.
“A criminal record also carries a cost; an offender’s life prospects are likely to be significantly diminished, affecting employment opportunities and even car insurance premiums.
“Police forces and health services need to work much more closely with schools to develop an effective programme of education warning children against the dangers of substance misuse.
“The numbers make plain the fact that the Welsh Government’s strategy for tackling substance misuse is failing far too many of our most vulnerable members of society.
“More focus should be placed on empowering communities to respond to their problems, which are often unique in nature and in scale to their locality.”
COSTS OF ALCOHOL ABUSE ‘INCALCULABLE’
Mark Isherwood AM, Shadow Secretary for Social Justice, said: “The cost to society of alcohol abuse is incalculable and is often a contributory factor in poor health, unwanted pregnancy and, as these figures show, youth crime.
“The deep-rooted causes of underage drinking must be tackled through interventions that are targeted at children and young people most vulnerable to this kind of behaviour – before they take a collision course with the law.
“The Welsh Government needs to work far better with headteachers and the voluntary and independent sectors to find innovative and joined up solutions to this unacceptable antisocial issue.”
YOUNG DRINKERS ALSO VICTIMS
At first glance, official figures on drinking habits indicate that, in recent years, while young people have been drinking above the average unit consumption per week, they now drink less than the UK average. Young people also drink fewer times during the week than most other age groups. But when they do drink, a significant proportion engage in heavy episodic or ‘binge’ drinking. The most notable example of this is among young women; the highest age-specific proportion of female binge drinkers are in the 16 to 24 year-old age bracket.
These current trends are at odds with the wider historical overview of young persons’ alcohol consumption in the UK.
In the interwar period, they were the lightest drinkers in the adult population and the group most likely to abstain. Nor did alcohol play a significant part in the youth culture that came into existence in the 1950s, this being more likely to involve the coffee bar than the pub.
It was not until the 1960s that pubs and drinking became an integral part of the youth scene. By the 1980s, young people had become the heaviest drinkers in the population, and the group least likely to abstain. This has resulted in continuous rises in the number of admissions to hospitals over the past decade, and in the case of females aged between 15 and 34, a doubling in the rate of alcohol-related deaths in the last 20 years.
A number of academic studies have found links between young people drinking and being involved in fights, sustaining injuries and committing violent crime. Frequent, heavy or problem drinking in 15 and 16-year-olds is associated with violent but not property offences, while other research has found a diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence is associated with both.
Survey evidence also suggests that teenage drinkers are more likely to carry weapons. Conversely, it has been shown that 11–16 who drink more or are more frequently drunk are more susceptible to being the victims of violent attacks.
MISUSE OF ALCOHOL PRIORITISED
The Herald put the Conservative’s statement to Dyfed-Powys Police, and Temporary Chief Inspector Dyfed Bolton told us: “Alcohol misuse and related crime is an issue that the police face in every area and Dyfed-Powys is no exception. Misuse of alcohol by young people is prioritised and there are initiatives in place to try and tackle this and ensure young people don’t get involved with alcohol in the first place.
“Officers regularly visit local schools as part of the All Wales School Liaison Core Programme, and this offers a series of lesson plans addressing key areas of concern around substance misuse. The programme also aims to deter children from crime, and sets out clearly the consequences of committing various crimes, as well as the harm alcohol and crimes have on them and others around them, not just in the short-term but also for their future.
“Reducing the harm caused by alcohol consumption is a priority for Dyfed-Powys Police, and we work with our partners to deliver lessons and provide support to youngsters on the serious consequences of under-age drinking and any associated anti-social behaviour and various crimes, and take further action where necessary. Hard hitting ‘Paul’s Pledge’ has also been delivered in schools and colleges throughout the force area to hammer home the devastating consequences of alcohol-related violent crime.”
AN ALL-TIME LOW
We approached the Welsh Government for a response to the Conservatives’ claims and a robust defence was offered of the Welsh Government’s record.
A spokesperson told us: “It is important to put these figures in context. Drinking among 11 to 15-year-olds in Wales has declined sharply since the late 1990s. It is now at a record low.
“We work closely with the Youth Justice Board on preventing young people from entering the youth justice system through early intervention and diversion – including those young people who misuse drugs and alcohol. We also ring fence £2.75m of our Substance Misuse Action Fund to provide support and services to children and young people in Wales.
“The All Wales Schools Liaison Programme goes into every primary and secondary school in Wales to raise awareness of the harm caused by substance misuse, including alcohol.”
DIRECT ACTION MUST BE TAKEN
Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said: “Underage drinking can cause huge problems in society, and the accounts of alcohol-related crime released by the four police forces are very worrying.
“But as well as considering the impact of these crimes on the community, we must consider causes of such behaviour.
“We need to work with young people who are offenders, and Plaid Cymru has long called for greater emphasis on education in order to improve children’s welfare from the early years. Where children are found to be struggling, we want to maintain counselling services for them.
“But we also need to take direct action to stop young people drinking too much. The introduction of a minimum price for alcohol can help combat the very cheap and very potent alcohol that creates so many problems in our communities. Research shows that a price rise is often linked to a reduction in consumption, so this is something we need to consider.”
ALCOHOL MISUSE HAS DEVASTATING EFFECT
Regional AM Eluned Morgan responded to the Conservatives’ criticism by telling The Herald: “Alcohol and substance misuse can have devastating effects on individuals, families, and communities. Patterns of alcohol consumption are changing and it’s of great concern that increasing numbers of people are damaging their health through excessive drinking.”
She explained: “We need to focus on what drives people to misuse drugs or alcohol, whether the right national approach and local services are in place to raise awareness of their harms, and to give people help when they need it most. That’s why it’s so important that the Welsh Government is taking action at a strategic level in order to raise awareness of the harms associated with alcohol and substance misuse, as well as tackle them. Improved training may be also required for GPs – there has been an associated rise in the prevalence of alcohol related conditions.
“The Wales Bill, which I am leading on for the Opposition in the House of Lords, seeks to provide the Assembly with an appropriate set of powers to enable the Welsh Government to address problems such as those relating to alcohol and substance misuse. At the moment, the Assembly’s powers are limited by the UK Government. This is why it’s so important for the Wales Bill to add to the powers of the Government in Wales to act in a way which benefits the people of Wales, not roll them back as the Conservatives in Westminster are doing.”
Walk-in testing now available for Aberystwyth town
From today [Wednesday 30 September 2020], people in Aberystwyth with symptoms of COVID-19 can access testing (through a booked appointment) via a temporary walk-in facility in the town.
Hywel Dda University Health Board has arranged this extra testing service in addition to the drive through facility already in place at Canolfan Rheidol, because many residents in the town, including students, do not have their own private vehicle in order to access the drive-through testing facility.
The facility is located in the former university nursery building (behind, but not connected to, Padarn Surgery), Penglais Road, Aberystwyth and can be accessed via the walkway which will be clearly signposted to ensure people get to the right place.
Alison Shakeshaft, Director of Therapies & Health Science at Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “We have put this extra facility in place to make sure those in the local community without their own transport are not missing out on getting a test when they need it.
“We appreciate the efforts people are making to help protect each other during this challenging time. I urge everyone to remain vigilant and follow the rules, including wearing face coverings where required, keep social distancing, washing hands regularly, or using a hand sanitiser if hand washing is not possible, to help us live and work alongside the virus whilst containing its spread.”
Eifion Evans, Ceredigion County Council Chief Executive said, “We thank Hywel Dda University Health Board for providing extra testing service in Ceredigion. Residents and students alike are urged to utilise this service for the health of everyone living in our county and we are able to protect the vulnerable. This is a critical time for us to follow the rules and keep Ceredigion safe.”
Anyone who has symptoms of the virus (a new persistent cough, high temperature or loss/change of taste or smell) must book a test as soon as possible through the online UK portal at www.gov.wales/coronavirus.
Please make sure when booking your test that you select the option you need (for example, only book the walk-in centre if you are not able to travel in your own vehicle to the drive through facility). If you attend the walk-in centre you must wear a face covering.
University students with COVID-19 symptoms, when booking a test, are required to provide the temporary local address they are living at while they are students at Aberystwyth university and not their usual home address.
Please do not book a test if you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and do not turn up without booking first as it will not be possible to accommodate you without an appointment.
Please follow the latest self-isolation guidelines which can be found here.
Thank you for helping to #KeepCeredigionSafe.
For the latest news and updated from Hywel Dda University Health Board visit www.hduhb.wales.nhs.uk
Adjustment to Safe Zones
In August, temporary traffic orders were introduced so that Safe Zones for four Ceredigion towns could remain for up to 18 months subject to regular reviews so minor adjustments can be made.
In line with the evidence collected on the use of the towns, Ceredigion County Council feel the need to keep the safe zones in place for the time being. Aberaeron and New Quay will continue as they are.
In Cardigan the closures will change to 11am until 4:30pm Monday to Saturday. The safe zones will not be in place on a Sunday in Cardigan. These adjustments will come in to force on Sunday morning, 04 October.
In Aberystwyth, additional parking has been implemented for the disabled and blue badge holders in Chalybeate Street close to the Care Society Mobility Centre.
Further enhancements to provide better access for the disabled and blue badge holders will also continue to be explored.
Safe zones were introduced in Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and New Quay on 13 July to create safe and spacious areas for the public to visit and provide the confidence that social distancing can be maintained in these areas.
Safe zones will be in place until at least 01 November 2020 and reviewed fortnightly in line with the infection rate and available evidence.
More information can be seen on the safe zones web page: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/SafeZones
Our responsibility to follow the new Wales coronavirus measures in order to Keep Ceredigion Safe
The Welsh Government is bringing in new coronavirus measures to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus.
To help further prevent the spread of coronavirus, new measures were announced by the First Minister which will come into force at 6pm on Thursday, September 24, 2020:
· Hospitality businesses in Wales will have to close at 10pm and provide table service only.
· All off-licences, including supermarkets, will have to stop selling alcohol at 10pm.
We are also being asked to think carefully about making journeys: only travel where it is essential to do so. The fewer people we meet and the fewer journeys we make, the safer we all are.
The Welsh Government have also introduced the following measures:
· A new £500 payment to support people on low incomes who are asked to self-isolate if they have coronavirus;
· Strengthened regulations to ensure employers support people who need to self-isolate.
The new measures are part of a package of co-ordinated actions to control the spread of coronavirus and it is essential that we all play our part in order to keep Ceredigion safe.
These new measures are to be introduced alongside those that are already in place:
· Keep a 2m social distance from each other when out and about.
· Wash your hands regularly.
· Wear a mask in indoor public places, shops and on public transport
· Only meet 6 people indoors from your extended household (not including children 11 and under).
· Do not meet with more than 30 people outdoors.
· Work from home, wherever possible.
· Think carefully about making journeys: only travel where you need to do so. The fewer people we meet and the fewer journeys we make, the safer we all are.
We need everyone to follow the rules and guidance and to take the steps to protect them and their loved ones.
Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.
All the latest information and advice regarding the coronavirus can be found on Ceredigion County Council’s website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/Coronavirus. The Council’s Corporate Contact Centre number is 01545 570881.
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