The BBC are reporting that Brighton and Hove Council are considering whether to ask parents to sign contracts pledging not to give their children alcohol.
I’ve had a look at the paper that will be discussed by councillors this evening and what’s clear is that this proposal is only a part of a much wider discussion that is taking place which will include: promoting alcohol free events to young people, looking at reducing the availability of alcohol during high-profile events, a cumulative impact zone, work to reduce illegal alcohol sales, supporting the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing, and a range of other strategies and tactics.
But I do want to focus on what they’re proposing to do with parents. The paper has this to say on that issue:
Parents and older siblings are often involved in the purchasing of alcohol for younger people. A programme of work specifically targeting these groups is under development. The Healthy Schools Programme has made links with education systems in other areas. One area with a very strong abstinence message for young people is Rotterdam. A parent ‘contract’, with parents agreeing to not provide their children with alcohol has been signed in some schools. The possibility of developing something similar in Brighton and Hove is under discussion, with a view to changing attitudes towards young people drinking alcohol.
I can’t tell from this whether what is being proposed is in any way close to the Effekt programme, but if not there are some similarities that councillors and those helping them reach decisions on this may want to consider.
As the recent Centre for the Analysis of Youth Transitions (CAYT) analysis of the programme pointed out Effekt is a
universal prevention program designed to decrease underage drunkenness by maintaining parents’ restrictive attitudes and expectations concerning underage drinking.
It was developed in Sweden and is widely used there but has also been used in Holland alongside a short alcohol education programme for young people.
When Drug and Alcohol Findings took a look at the Dutch study the conclusion was that it may well travel quite well to the UK. Mike Ashton wrote:
In drinking cultures like Britain, advice originating from the school about the parent’s responsibility to communicate an unambiguous stance on drinking risks being seen as unwelcome meddling, especially by the heavy drinking parents whose children could most benefit from stronger parenting. However, the findings from this Dutch study suggest that in the UK as in the Netherlands, a suitably adjusted version of the parenting intervention would be a worthwhile addition to alcohol use prevention lessons, but not the standalone success it was in Sweden.
Of course it may be that Brighton and Hove are looking at another model entirely. I’ve made contact with the council to see and hope to talk to someone about what they’re trying to do later this week.