Over the last decade in the UK, there has been a decline in problematic alcohol consumption, particularly among young Britons. A report by DEMOS ‘Character and moderation: encouraging the next generation of responsible drinking examines how this positive trend can be built on by ensuring that ‘programmes develop character and life skills which are promoted and supported by the next government’. Demos recently held two roundtables on the subject of ‘Character and Moderation: Tackling Alcohol Misuse’ – one with Labour Parliamentarians and councillors, the other with Conservative Parliamentarians and councillors. The report presents a summary of these two roundtables, as well as the latest research and policy initiatives on these issues. Based on these discussions and this research, Demos offer the following ten recommendations for the next government to incorporate into their alcohol strategy, and for the APPG on Alcohol Misuse to consider for their future work:
1. The next Government should provide a comprehensive early intervention strategy as part of its strategy to tackle alcohol misuse.
2. The government should continue to target resources at the home environment and support for parents, particularly those in vulnerable situations, through increased investment in Family Nurse Partnerships.
3. The size of public health budgets that local authorities receive from national government should be linked to alcohol harm profiles.
4. There should be better joined up working between government departments with current responsibility for alcohol (Home Office, Department for Health, Public Health England), the Department for Education and the Cabinet Office.
5. Public Health England needs to work with local authorities and the Department for Education to ensure that ‘life skills’ programmes in schools are considered an important component of public health strategies at a local level.
6. Public Health England should invest in research to understand what is causing the sustained decline in youth drinking.
7. The Department for Education should ensure that teacher training colleges are teaching best practice pedagogical approaches to ensure that teachers adopt teaching strategies that evidence shows are more likely to build character in their pupils.
8. Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) should be part of the national curriculum and a schools need to be incentivised to adopt a ‘whole school’ approach to character development.
9. Local alcohol partnerships should be strengthened to curb underage drinking – working with schools and public health workers – and should continue to promote diversionary activities and innovations such as non-drinking pubs for young people.
10. The alcohol industry should look at ways to engage positively with national campaigns aimed at building character skills.