28/02/2011 - Permalink

Tackling underage drinking

Related topics: Health

The Ludlow Community Alcohol Partnership (L-CAP), led by Shropshire Council’s Trading Standards service, is working to tackle underage drinking in Ludlow.

The most recent pilot initiative has involved test purchasing at both pubs and shops to check the effectiveness of their ‘Challenge 25’ policies.

The test purchasing operations were run by Trading Standards at the request of the pubs and shops, as licensees were keen to find out if there were any weaknesses in their policies and procedures that they could improve on.

The operations used 18- and 19-year-old male and female volunteers who attempted to purchase alcohol during December and January. Of the 30 attempts to buy alcohol, 20 premises refused to sell – 12 out of 15 shops and eight out of 15 pubs. All of these businesses requested proof of age ID in accordance with their ‘Challenge 25’ policies, ie the sellers believed, and were right in each case, that the volunteers were under 25 so proof of age ID was required and a refusal made when ID was not provided.

Frances Darling, Chair of L-CAP, said:

“We would like to commend those businesses which did refuse to sell to the volunteers. In particular, that they all specifically asked for proof of age ID, and in one case the sales assistant attempted to give one of our volunteers an application form for a Validate UK proof of age card. This is exactly the type of action that pubs and shops should be taking to encourage young people who are over 18 to take responsibility for proving their age.”

L-CAP partners provided training on ‘Challenge 25’ policies before the test purchasing operations were undertaken, and additional training following the operations in a bid to reinforce its importance.

Frances Darling added:

“We are clearly disappointed that a third of licensees failed to follow a ‘Challenge 25’ policy. The sales could so easily have been made to volunteers who were under 18 – the physical difference in appearance between a young person who is 18 or 19 compared to someone who is a month or two short of their 18th birthday is almost negligible. The idea behind ‘Challenge 25’ is that it removes the need to make this difficult judgement call. Nevertheless, on a very positive note, the licensees wanted these test purchasing operations to be carried out so that weaknesses could be highlighted to staff and appropriate steps taken
to improve.”

The main focus of the L-CAP pilot concluded at the end of January, and the project is now being reviewed and evaluated to measure its success. In the meantime, partnership members are committed to putting a plan in place for the future. In addition, Trading Standards and West Mercia Police will be undertaking test purchasing operations using volunteers who are under 18 to provide a robust test of the L-CAP’s effectiveness.

Councillor Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for trading standards, said:

“The L-CAP continues to bring the trade, community, enforcers and many other partners together to tackle the effects of underage drinking in Ludlow. Promoting proof of age together with ‘Challenge 25’ is just one example of the work that the L-CAP is currently undertaking to bring about a change in attitudes towards underage drinking.”

Rosanna Taylor-Smith, Martin Taylor-Smith and Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillors for Ludlow, said:

“We fully support ‘Challenge 25’ and strongly encourage all Ludlow licensees to apply and implement it consistently across all their premises to prevent the sale of alcohol to those who are under-age.”