Working to make Scotland a nation of Unfearties!
16 October 2019
Responding to Call 23 of our 25 Calls campaign, David Robertson from Alcohol Focus Scotland describes why the views of children are so important in improving our lives when it comes to our cultural fixation on alcohol
Call 23: Let’s make Scotland a nation of Unfearties!
Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) was proud to support the Children’s Parliament to investigate how alcohol impacts children’s lives.
The impact of alcohol has emerged as a consistent theme throughout Children’s Parliament work across Scotland over the past two decades, and as highlighted in its 2017 publication What Kind of Scotland?, children said they wanted a childhood free from alcohol.
AFS asked Children’s Parliament what an alcohol-free childhood might mean to children, and more importantly what needs to be done to achieve it. Members of the Children’s Parliament (MCPs) aged 9-11 were given training to enable them to work with more than 80 of their peers in three Edinburgh primary schools to explore the issues that alcohol raises in their everyday lives.
The investigators showed their own “unfeartieness” by making a video of their findings, developing recommendations in a report Children’s Parliament investigates: an alcohol-free childhood (click to read) and presenting their findings to the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, the Minister for Children and Young People, MSPs, and representatives of public health bodies and children’s organisations.
The report is an eye-opener on exactly what young children perceive in terms of alcohol harms. The MCPs identified nine rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that would be protected by their report recommendations.
They discovered that many children are concerned and worried about adult drinking and don’t feel safe when around people under the influence of alcohol, fearing unpredictability and rowdy behaviour. Children don’t like to play where there are people drinking, broken bottles litter their streets and play areas, and even social events can be less enjoyable for them when adults are drinking. The children concluded that alcohol is “everywhere, all the time”:
QUOTE the home, the bus shelter, on billboards, shop windows, inside shops, on TV, radio, airports, on the beach, in cafes and restaurants.
Children showed detailed knowledge of brands and advertising and a concern that it might make adults buy more alcohol and encourage young people to do so too.
Children understood that some children can be neglected, ignored, or not looked after properly by parents or carers who have been drinking. Some children describe feeling stressed and responsible for their parents’ actions if they appear angry or sad under the influence of alcohol. Adults are not intentionally discomforting children, these impacts are simply a consequence of alcohol’s effect on behaviour.
AFS is committed to a rights-based approach which is grounded in an understanding of children and young people’s views towardsalcohol.Fortunately, so does the Scottish Government, which has committed to putting the voices of children and young people at the heart of developing preventative measures on alcohol in its Alcohol Framework 2018 (click to read).
At a parliamentary event to promote the Children’s Parliament work, the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing made a public commitment to the Children’s Parliament Investigators that their work will directly influence an upcoming consultation on regulating alcohol marketing, which will be published in spring 2020.
Article 17 of the UNCRC “…protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her wellbeing” and the cornerstone of call 10, it’s time to agree a common set of values in the digital world, certainly highlights the need to better protect our children from on-line marketing.
“Influencers” who may have a young following can often quite subtly convey positive messages around alcohol use and there are very poor controls over who gets to see alcohol products marketed through sports sponsorship or promoted by celebrities. Coupled with the increased number of alcohol views and branding placement found through streaming services, the digital world can be a very influential place for our tech savvy children and young people.
"Let’s have adults stand up for children’s rights not to be harmed by the consumption of alcohol by others."
So, Call 23 sets out a route towards a better future for our young people. The work that Alcohol Focus Scotland has embarked on to manifest a childhood free from the harm caused by alcohol supports many of those calls; the need for adults to be bold and stand up for children’s rights, to have their own voices heard, to feel safe and loved, be healthy.
The Children’s Parliament Investigators identified how their human rights could be protected in relation to the unintended consequences of adult drinking and alcohol promotion. They developed a set of calls to action to ensure all children grow up in a Scotland free from the negative impact of alcohol. Let’s ensure that their voices are heard and that change results from their actions.
To find out how you can help support the AFS initiative in pursuit of an alcohol-free childhood and be an alcohol unfeartie contact David Robertson, the AFC Coordinator at AFS, David.Robertson@alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk, 0141 572 6598.
He is responding to Call 23 of our 25 Calls campaign by Children's Parliament and Together, "Let’s make Scotland a nation of Unfearties!" Click here to read the call