Health charity workers today warned young people are putting themselves at risk by drinking alcohol at home before going on a night out.
Frustrated staff at Young Addaction, who work to tackle underage drinking in the county, have revealed how they have even witnessed parents dropping off children at entrances to Preston parks and giving them a crate of booze out of the car boot.
Another mum was caught hosting a party for around 80 children at a plush detached home in Cottam, Preston, where alcohol was readily available to the young guests.
Thirty-eight per cent of the youngsters, all aged between 14 and 17, who were surveyed by a team at Lancashire Trading Standards, said they drank alcohol at parties with family and around a third said they drank booze in friends’ houses with friends’ parents.
Central Lancashire Young Addaction worker Hannah Merlyn said staff had noticed a trend of young people drinking a lot at home before going out to drink more.
She said: “They feel like they need to perhaps have that element of confidence before they step out of the front door. If they have already drunk at home, they may be more likely to then go on to stronger drinks later in the night if they go out
“False confidence can be dangerous. I’ve found a lot of young people in Leyland and Chorley tend to go to a lot of unsafe places in the dark – like Worden Park – that if they weren’t under the influence they may not have gone into.
“Alcohol can take effect from the very first sip.”
In 2007, a survey found parents in Lancashire had the second highest rate amongst 21 North West authorities for buying alcohol for their teenagers.
Conversely, the number of children drinking on the street has fallen from 40 per cent in 2007 to 14 per cent in 2013, with charities saying they had upped their efforts to tackle this particular problem.
Elaine Hindal, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, says: “Our campaign encouraging parents to delay the age of their child’s first drink aims to debunk the belief that giving children alcohol at a young age makes them responsible drinkers in later life.
“Evidence shows that young people who start drinking at an early age drink more, and more frequently, than those who delay their first alcoholic drink.”
A teenager from Carnforth who had his first drink aged 10 and ended up being involved in vehicle crime, said: “It doesn’t surprise me that some parents choose to give alcohol to their children. Maybe they don’t want their kids to drink out of their supervision. I think it’s like bribery by kids - that threat that if their parents don’t give it to them they will get it elsewhere.”
The Community Alcohol Network (CAN) – made up of different organisations who try to tackle underage drinking, including police and Trading Standards – has been launched in several areas of Lancashire, most recently in South Ribble and Lancaster.
Its staff, who have found youngsters in vulnerable situations including camping out and drinking with strangers, are keen to encourage parents to consider the wider picture.
Sam Beetham, of Lancashire Trading Standards, said: “Parents can strongly influence young people’s alcohol related behaviour through supervision and monitoring, as well as playing a role in modelling this behaviour. However, previous research undertaken by the Alcohol and Tobacco Team and LCFT highlights a need to educate parents on the inherent dangers and risks associated with sleepovers, house parties and drinking dens which provide an unsupervised location for underage drinking to occur.”
For more on our investigation into underage drinking, see tomorrow’s LEP.