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Police Commissioner at the forefront of new approach to street drinking in the UK

Jason Ablewhite, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire is joining Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) from across the UK to mastermind new national guidance on tackling street drinking.

The project, led by Nottinghamshire PCC Paddy Tipping and involving PCCs from Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Dorset, Devon & Cornwall, Humberside, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and West Mercia, puts forward tough measures to deal with street drinkers who are most resistant to treatment or help.

Jason Ablewhite said: “I am fully supportive of this new partnership approach: individual costs of ‘change resistant’ drinkers can be monumental and have knock-on effects for health and criminal justice as well as other agencies. We need to do all we can to reduce these costs to society as a whole.”

The guidance, written by Alcohol Concern’s senior consultant Mike Ward with input from key national bodies and PCC representatives, will be unveiled at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ annual conference on November 17.

Research estimates that “change resistant” street drinkers cost individual local authority areas anywhere between £300,000 and £4m per year.

Alcohol Concern, the national charity on alcohol misuse, said the average cost of just one, high-risk “change resistant” drinker is around £35,000 annually which includes health, criminal justice and antisocial behaviour costs.

The guidance, funded by the PCCs, recommends agencies develop positive pathways from prisons and hospitals into the community to tackle street drinking and work more closely with the retail sector on alcohol sales. It also urges authorities to use the full arm of the law when appropriate, including civil injunctions to maintain compliance with treatment programmes.

Paddy Tipping, who will deliver a presentation on the new guidance during the conference, said: “This work highlights the serious drain on resources just a small number of street drinkers can have on public services.

“It offers PCCs and support agencies positive strategies for reducing the burden on blue-light organisations. Instead of new investment or resource-intensive intervention, these strategies rely heavily on effective partnership working and show that the management of this problem can be achieved anywhere with the right framework.

“The goal for all of us is to reach those people who’ve continually fallen out of the grip of help and reduce the costs of their actions on the public purse as well as reduce anxiety on our streets.

“Confronting street drinking will also open the gateway to tackling a range of serious issues associated with chronic street drinkers from domestic violence and exploitation to mental health problems. PCCs are ideally placed to make a positive impact on this problem by refocusing existing efforts for better results.”

The new guidance suggests there could be as many as 15-25 street drinkers in a small local authority area while this figure could rise to 50-90 in larger areas. In very large urban areas, the number could be in excess of 200.

The report’s author, Mike Ward, from Alcohol Concern, said: “PCCs are well-placed to lead a national effort to improve the response to this very visible group of drinkers.”