A pioneering programme ‘Communities in Charge of Alcohol’ has been launched today (Thursday, 21 September) to combat the growing number of people who are drinking excessive amounts of alcohol across the city region.
The latest statistics from Public Health England show rates of alcohol-specific hospital admissions and mortality are significantly higher across all 10 boroughs in Greater Manchester than the England average.
The project will be led by community volunteers called ‘Community Alcohol Champions’ who are being trained to help family, friends and colleagues to rethink their drinking habits.
Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Beverley Hughes has backed the initiative saying: “Alcohol-related crime is putting avoidable pressure on already overstretched police and health services. The effect of binge drinking on antisocial behaviour is widely known but excessive alcohol consumption also leads to an increase in more serious crimes that are being committed across Greater Manchester.
“It is important not only for community safety but also for the health and wellbeing of our residents that we encourage people to cut down on the amount of alcohol they drink. Many people in Greater Manchester are unaware of the effect alcohol is having on their health. Our Alcohol Champions will be figures of trust in the community who will support people as they think about and change their drinking habits.”
The programme is first being introduced in Salford and Stockport, and will be rolled out to all other boroughs across Greater Manchester by May 2018. Salford Healthy Communities (SHC) will run the project on behalf of Salford City Council’s public health team.
Bruce Poole of SHC said: “Some of our existing volunteers have signed up but we’re looking for new people who live in Eccles or Monton to join us. They will get full training and can even get a qualification if they want. They can put in as much time as they have available – it’s completely flexible and we don’t set targets.
“We’ve tried this approach before with the Drinkaware campaign and spoke to more than 600 people in just a couple of months. People were very positive about it and welcomed being able to check their drinking habits. We also found a lot of people took information away, planning to speak to family and friends themselves, so we reached many more people.”
Cllr Tom McGee, Stockport Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, said: “The Communities in Charge of Alcohol pilot is a real opportunity for local residents to positively influence their community. It’s fantastic that we have local people who are willing to give their time and energy to help reduce some of the harms cause by alcohol.”