Hundreds of 12 and 13 year olds across Londonderry are being targeted in a new campaign against underage drinking.
The city’s Civic Alcohol Forum has teamed up with schools across the city and all 600 Year 9 pupils have been invited to take part.
A range of events are taking place throughout this week, including a four-day conference in the city.
The latest Challenging Underage Drinking initiative will bring the young people together with statutory, community and business organisations to find out more about the health, social and community consequences of alcohol misuse and underage drinking.
It comes after a number of recent police operations which have seen alcohol confiscated from youths caught flouting by-laws and ignoring underage drinking legislation.
Several other initiatives have also been launched across the city to crack down on young people gathering in their hundreds on estates to drink. Children in Derry will this week examine the legislation that relates to underage drinking and alcohol misuse and the consequences of not complying with the laws.
They will also hear from local people about the damaging effect that alcohol misuse and underage drinking are having on local communities.
Joanne Smith, manager of the Drink Think Project, said: “Research carried out by ourselves and by national agencies indicates that around the ages of 12 and 13 years old are crucial ages for young people deciding whether to drink or not.
“It is fantastic that all agencies are working together to provide a co-ordinated intervention for this specific age group — particularly in the lead-up to summer — to highlight the risks to themselves and their community.”
DUP councillor Maurice Devenney (left), chairman of the Civic Alcohol Forum, said: “This is an excellent conference and training event which will enable over 600 of our young people to gain a valuable insight into some of the issues of alcohol misuse that affect our local area at a time in their lives when they are coming under pressure to consider underage drinking.”
Karen Philips, senior environmental health officer with Derry City Council and programme manager for the Civic Alcohol Forum, said: “The organisation and development of this event has involved significant work by a number of organisations.
“It shows how we can work together to deliver innovative and interesting sessions that will give young people important information about underage drinking that we hope will keep them safe in the future.”
Baroness Newlove, the government’s champion for Active, Safer Communities, came to Derry six months ago to visit the operation.
Speaking at the time, she said: “This initiative is an excellent model for how local communities can pull together and tackle the serious issues they face, such as underage drinking.”
\[c.obrien\]Reports of alcohol-related incidents where youths were causing annoyance dropped by 50%, while referrals to youth diversion officers fell by nearly 50% for the full year. Reports of rowdiness and nuisance dropped by 31%.</>