A massive £2m has been donated from lottery funds to help tackle the growing problem of alcohol abuse and binge drinking in Londonderry.
Experts have described the problem as “out of control” and revealed that children as young as 11 and 12 are starting to drink alcohol in the city.
The cash awarded to the north west today are part of nearly £17m given to 18 projects across Northern Ireland through the Big Lottery Fund's Safe and Well programme.
It aims to help people of all ages work together to promote wellbeing and tackle health and safety issues.
One of the largest single amounts, £1m, has been awarded to the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum to develop the Neighbourhood Alcohol Safety Partnership project which includes a wide range of organisations including local bar and off licence owners.
It will use the grant to promote the safe sale and consumption of alcohol — working with a wide range of organisations including community groups and health agencies to tackle problems related to excess consumption.
Manager Tony Doherty said: “Alcohol causes major damage to the social fabric of the city, has a close link to domestic violence and suicide and is generally considered to be a situation that is out of control.”
He said they hoped to develop education and training programmes highlighting the physical, mental, domestic and community damage cause by alcohol abuse. “Alcohol accompanies us from the cradle to the grave and its increasing use is a matter of serious concern for those working in public health.
“The average age of young boys and girls drinking is now 11 to 12,” said Mr Doherty.
Almost a million more — £909,974 — is also going to Derry to help the Foyle Haven Centre develop a ‘safe from harm' project which will extend existing opening hours to seven days a week and provide vital support for the city's street drinkers.
Project manager Darren McPartland said it would help reduce the high levels of assaults and crime against street drinkers in the city.
“Recent figures from the PSNI revealed that in one year there had been 158 reported incidents of violent crime in the John Street area and 155 of these were crimes against street drinkers,” he said.