Demon Drink? the data

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Dr Lucy Neville examines the data on young offenders in London, in relation to alcohol and other risky behaviours, according to anonymised ASSET records

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  • These rates of alcohol use were surprising, suggesting significantly lower levels of alcohol experience than other national study of offender cohorts. Hammersley suggests that nine in 10 young offenders have ever drunk alcohol and it is estimated half of young offenders got drunk at least once a week. However, there is little or no recent comparable data available for young offenders living in London, with its consistently low-drinking culture.Surveys of school-age pupils aged 11-15 years in London suggest that 31% have ever drunk alcohol and only 7% have drunk in the last week - far below national rates of 74% and 25% respectively . A directly comparable with the offender data set aged 11-17 years old - drinking experience increases with age - but, in line with wider study, the findings appear to show higher alcohol risks for young offenders in London than non-offending peers . However, we need to be cautious with these conclusions due to the lack of reliable comparable data.
  • It is not possible to draw conclusions about the causality of alcohol in poor mental health or negative educational experiences based on these findings. Alcohol was not identified as a factor in disaffection and seems unlikely to have played a significant part in contributing to disengagement with schooling. However, experience of exclusions, truancy and attending a PRU may influence the likelihood of poor outcomes, including alcohol misuse. Alcohol may not represent the most significant vulnerability in the lives of many young people aged 11-17 years but it does appear as a thread between other risks factors and vulnerabilities. It is highly likely that what the data reflects is that for many young people in the youth justice system, alcohol represents one of a cluster of risks that contribute to poor life outcomes. Both mental health services and schools, PRUs in particular, need to be aware of the increased risk of alcohol use by the young people they work with. Practitioners should be aware that alcohol may be overlooked when multiple risks are present in a young person’s life. Dependence, fortunately, is rare amongst under-18s but early drunkenness and risky drinking patterns shape later relationships with alcohol and increase the problem behaviours. Early identification by universal services such as schools and in targeted support services such as PRUs, mental health services and YOSs is vital.
  • It is not possible to draw conclusions about the causality of alcohol in poor mental health or negative educational experiences based on these findings. Alcohol was not identified as a factor in disaffection and seems unlikely to have played a significant part in contributing to disengagement with schooling. However, experience of exclusions, truancy and attending a PRU may influence the likelihood of poor outcomes, including alcohol misuse. Alcohol may not represent the most significant vulnerability in the lives of many young people aged 11-17 years but it does appear as a thread between other risks factors and vulnerabilities. It is highly likely that what the data reflects is that for many young people in the youth justice system, alcohol represents one of a cluster of risks that contribute to poor life outcomes. Both mental health services and schools, PRUs in particular, need to be aware of the increased risk of alcohol use by the young people they work with. Practitioners should be aware that alcohol may be overlooked when multiple risks are present in a young person’s life. Dependence, fortunately, is rare amongst under-18s but early drunkenness and risky drinking patterns shape later relationships with alcohol and increase the problem behaviours. Early identification by universal services such as schools and in targeted support services such as PRUs, mental health services and YOSs is vital.
  • Fighting is strongly associated with alcohol use. Hazardous drinking is a risk factor both for being victimised and perpetrating youth violence and early drunkenness is linked to experience of fights, injuries and other problem behaviours. In England and Wales 18-24 year old males that report feeling very drunk at least monthly are more than twice as likely to have been involved in a fight in the previous year. The British Medical Association (BMA) estimates that in the UK, 78% of assaults are committed under the influence of alcohol. Whilst the evidence supporting the link between alcohol use and fights in young people and young adults appears strong, the evidence linking alcohol and violent recorded offences in under-18s appears less so. The YJB do not have statistics on the prevalence of alcohol on point of arrest. Limited existing research has tended to study higher risk imprisoned young people with research typically taking place in Youth Offending Institutes (YOIs), rather than amongst wider youth offender populations, many of who are completing community sentences. Certainly, young people interviewed for the study strongly associate excessive alcohol with losing control and being in fights, both in general assumptions and personal experiences. All interviewees that had drunk felt that alcohol had historically had a negative effect on their behaviour characteristically making them short-tempered and impulsive. A smaller proportion associated alcohol use with getting into ‘trouble’ - an association apparently not supported by the data. Six of the 19 young people interviewed stated that alcohol has played a part in them getting into ‘trouble’, although the police were not necessarily specified. It needs to be considered, given the strength of the link between alcohol and fights amongst boys and young men in particular, that alcohol-related violence may be under-recorded by criminal justice agencies. Alcohol-related violence committed by under-18s is likely to take place in the same environments in which they drink, often out of sight of the public or authorities. Violence is likely to take the form of a fight
  • often without grave harm and involving someone known to them, reducing the likelihood of incidents coming to the attention of criminal justice agencies. As young adults graduate toward drinking in the managed night-time economy post 18-years, violence resulting in criminal justice outcomes may increase. In part this may be explained by an escalation in severity, greater likelihood of violence involving strangers and because it is more likely to take place in controlled or supervised environments such as bars, clubs or town centres. The link therefore between alcohol, violence and criminal justice outcomes may become stronger once young adults reach the legal drinking age of 18 years.
  • Demon Drink? the data

    1. 1. Demon Drink? Alcohol and offending Dr. Lucy Neville Wednesday 11th December 2013 #DemonDrink
    2. 2. ASSET Sample • 412 in sample • Average age = 16 • 90% males, 10% females 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0
    3. 3. ASSET Sample • 49% from deprived neighbourhoods • 11% viewed substance use as positive/essential • For 20% substance use was involved in their offending behaviour • For 11% there was evidence that family members or carers used alcohol heavily
    4. 4. ASSET Sample • 28% of the sample had contact with or been referred to mental health service • 80% had negative attitudes towards ETE (n=264); 21% had poor relationships with teachers (n=255); 42% had other problems with school (eg frequent changes of school / educational placement, school unchallenging/boring etc) (n=257); and 53% had issues with nonattendance(n=223) • 43 participants had been excluded from school (of 124 cases where this information was known - ie 35%)
    5. 5. 120 106 100 96 84 80 60 41 40 20 30 25 12 8 5 3 0 46% of crimes committed involved a level of interpersonal violence
    6. 6. Alcohol Use 25% 44% 31% Not known to have used Ever used (not recent) Recent use
    7. 7. Alcohol linked to mental health • Of 113 clients who had had contact with/been referred to mental health services, 71% had used alcohol in the past • Strong correlation between alcohol use and poor educational experiences across a range of indicators
    8. 8. Alcohol linked to disaffection with education • Those who had ever used alcohol were significantly more likely to have had issues with school attendance such as truancy and exclusion, and report negative relationships with teachers • Of the 43 participants known to have been excluded from school, 65% had used alcohol and 28% of those excluded were recent users
    9. 9. Alcohol & Violence • No clear link between alcohol use and violent offending • Have/use(d) alcohol + substance use linked to offending  33% committed violence against the person (as opposed to 19% of those who did not see a link) • However, looking at all violent offences, link disappears  tied specially to offences centred around 'fighting'
    10. 10. Contact Details lucy.neville@mdx.ac.uk antony.goodman@mdx.ac.uk @CrimAndSoc

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