Help for stressed professionals over problem drinking

Alternatives: Barnsley Council's head of public health, Diane Lee, is promoting alternatives to alcohol for the town's drinkers.
Alternatives: Barnsley Council's head of public health, Diane Lee, is promoting alternatives to alcohol for the town's drinkers.
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A new alcohol strategy will be introduced in Barnsley in an attempt to tackle the town’s drinking problems – which are as likely to affect stressed professionals as they are to involve street drinkers.

A new alcohol strategy will be introduced in Barnsley in an attempt to tackle the town’s drinking problems – which are as likely to affect stressed professionals as they are to involve street drinkers.

Statistics for alcohol abuse are difficult to interpret, but show that almost one per cent of hospital admissions for men in Barnsley can be blamed on alcohol and although the figure for women is lower, both are significantly higher than the national average.

Those statistics include ‘secondary’ causes, such as those with high blood pressure who drink more than the recommended weekly maximum of units, but reflect the way alcohol use, and abuse, has changed in recent decades.

Work is being finalised on a new alcohol strategy by Barnsley Council’s public health unit, which aims to introduce a ‘three As’ approach to booze, tackling affordability, availability and acceptability.

Public health bosses have stressed they understand the social role alcohol plays in today’s society and they have no intention of damaging that, but want to ensure drinking is done within safe and acceptable levels, creating an environment where people can visit Barnsley and find alternatives to alcohol.

Diane Lee, head of public health in Barnsley, said acceptability was a difficult factor for the public to address, saying: “I think that is the hardest one for us, as individuals, how acceptable we think it is to go out and get drunk.

“Some people go out with the sole purpose of getting drunk as quickly as they can and some people have grown up thinking that is normal.

“The profile of people who drink excessively is changing. You might think street drinkers or the homeless would be the biggest problem but people in work, in professional occupations, stressful occupations, are going home and drinking more than they should to ease the pressure,” she said.

It is accepted that changing cultural outlooks on such issues can take decades: “These things sometimes take a long time, it can be a generational issue,” she said.

Work being done by Barnsley Council includes working with the health service, but also those involved with alcohol in society, including bars and off licence retailers.

The council has launched a Best Bar None scheme for the town centre, in the hope of getting pubs and clubs to sign up to creating a safe and healthy environment for people to socialise, with alternatives to alcohol available.

They are also working to encourage co-operation from off licence shops, for example asking that individual cans of beer are not sold on the grounds they are more easily accessible to those with a limited income who are likely to cause themselves harm.

It is expected that a new strategy will be launched as the summer progresses.