Is Cheltenham's youth drinking culture getting out of control
CALLS have been made to tackle underage drinking in Cheltenham after shocking figures show the town’s youth are falling victim to alcohol more here than anywhere else in the county.
Concerns have been raised about the access under-18s have to alcohol in the town, which is hospitalising children at a devastating rate.
The number of children from Cheltenham treated for alcohol abuse is almost double the figures for other areas in Gloucestershire.
Figures show that, of every 100,000 people admitted to hospital in Cheltenham for alcohol caused illnesses, 80 are children.
The statistics, for 2008 to 2011, show Cheltenham is the only district in Gloucestershire that is worse than the national average, which is 55 per 100,000.
In Gloucester, the figure is 43, while in Tewkesbury it is 45.
A workshop has been held this week for local authorities to discuss ways to tackle the problem.
And support services have said more must be done to stamp out Cheltenham's drinking culture.
Dave Jones, deputy chief executive for County Community Projects, based in Cheltenham, said: “It is an issue that we have dealt with, historically, for a long time.
“Alcohol is a problem because it is easily and readily available and is, for some young people that we work with, a way to block out their lives for a short period of time.
“Children are growing up thinking that alcohol is socially acceptable and young people have less control over their limits.”
Police have also raised concerns about the number of drink-related crimes in the town's streets at night.
It is understood that cheap drinks, including offers for 50p shots, are available in clubs and bars in Cheltenham during Freshers’ Week this week.
A spokeswoman for Gloucestershire police said: “Our licensing officers and local officers talk regularly to local pubs and clubs and work with them to encourage responsible drinking.
“Where necessary we will discuss concerns such as alcohol pricing to make sure they don't contribute to disorder and crime on our streets.”
She added: “We are proactive in combating the issues related to underage drinking and we regularly run test purchase operations to help prevent sales to under-18s.
“In addition to our work with licensees, Cheltenham officers regularly patrol areas where local youths are known to congregate and consume alcohol and use their powers to confiscate any alcohol found.”
Speaking after this week’s workshops, Richard Gibson, from Cheltenham Borough Council, said: “We all felt there is more we can do together to address the problems of alcohol.”