Minimum pricing ‘may not impact parents’ harmful drinking’

A study carried out by Public Health Scotland showed no evidence of a positive or negative impact on children.

A study into the impact of minimum pricing for alcohol has been unable to establish whether it has changed the dangerous drinking habits of parents.

Research by Public Health Scotland attempted to discover if the Scottish Government’s policy had any impact on the lives of children and young people within families affected by harmful alcohol use.

But workers who deal with families affected by a parent or carer’s drinking said they had seen no evidence of either a positive or negative impact on children.

Instead, they stressed persistent poverty and financial hardship continue to be a key issue in these young people’s lives.

The study was based on the responses of 42 people working in health and social care, and for charities and third-sector organisations, who deal with alcohol abuse and the impact on families.

It had hoped to consider whether the introduction of a 50p minimum price per unit of alcohol has changed drinking habits and behaviour of those living with, or in close contact with, children and young people, and if it had affected their spending on drink.

The report states: “Participants felt that poverty, together with the recent changes to the welfare system, was more likely to affect many of these families than any potential financial impact of minimum unit pricing.”

The findings also suggested the study – involving six focus groups and one interview between February and May 2019 – was carried out too soon to gauge whether the policy had resulted in any changes since it was introduced on May 1, 2018.

Jane Ford, from Public Health Scotland, said: “This study provides an important understanding of the lived experience of families in Scotland where children and young people experience harm as a result of their parent or carer’s drinking.

“First and foremost, the findings highlight the challenging unstable environments and the related harms which some children and young people experience, as well as the complex range of factors which contribute to this.

“However, participants felt that the negative impacts of poverty and recent changes to the welfare system were more likely to affect the families they work with than any potential financial impact of minimum unit pricing, whether positive or negative.”

She added: “These findings demonstrate the significance of appropriate support for families with differing alcohol-related needs and the importance of minimum unit pricing being complemented by other measures that help parents and carers to address the underlying reasons for their harmful drinking.

“Whole-family approaches, that mitigate the risk of harms to children and young people while supporting their parent or carer’s recovery, are crucial.”

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “We know children and young people living in families where a parent or carer is drinking at harmful levels need support and protection.

“This report reinforces the fact that parental or carer alcohol use is often just one of many factors affecting these families and our alcohol and drug strategies identify that tackling poverty and inequalities is central to reducing harmful use of alcohol and drugs.

“During the current crisis, parents and carers affected by alcohol and drug use continue to be able to access support through organisations such as Scottish Families Affected By Alcohol and Drugs, We Are With You and the Scottish Recovery Consortium (SRC).” 


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