A YouGov survey has revealed that 61 per cent of UK adults believe that excessive drinking is a problem (from minor to major) in their neighbourhood.
The survey, carried out on behalf of three major British Free Churches, asked people to judge the effects of alcohol on the area within walking distance from their home, or where they use local facilities.
The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have expressed concerns about the increasing availability of cheap alcohol and the effect that this might be having on communities across Britain. They believe that enforcing a minimum per-unit price could be part of the solution to this problem, a move that has already been taken by the Scottish Government and that has been backed by health watchdog, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).
“We know that it’s people in local communities that bear the brunt of the easy availability of cheap alcohol,” said Ms Ruth Pickles, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference and a former alcohol misuse counsellor.
She continued: “It affects their health services, their streets, their families and friends. As Christians, we want to work within communities to help find solutions that really work and protect those most vulnerable.”
Although the UK Government shows no sign of enforcing a minimum per-unit price nationally, the initiative is being considered by a number of local councils, including Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside.
“It’s encouraging to see local authorities taking the initiative in considering this important issue,” said the Rev Dr Kirsty Thorpe, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church.
"We would like many more councils to take action in response to the alarming rise in liver damage in younger people. Cheap alcohol is the real issue here. This problem is costing the NHS around £2.7 billion per year,” she added.
“Removing cheap alcohol is a vital first step,” commented the Rev Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
He declared: “The crucial need is to get to grips with the reason for excessive drinking. For some it is a form of protest against society, for others it is a personal cry for help. We need to listen harder and find ways in which we can encourage a sense of purpose and self-worth which makes excessive drinking unnecessary.”
YouGov's total survey sample size was 2132 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th - 16th November 2011. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
Research conducted by the School of Health and Health Related Research has found that if the minimum price for alcohol was set at 50p per unit, it would reduce hospital admissions by approximately 100,000 each year; with total cost savings for England of £7.4 billion over ten years.
* Find out more about the Free Churches' work on alcohol issues here: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/alcohol/?utm_medium=email&utm_source...