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14 September 2020

We Are With You statement in response to a report from The Independent Commission on Alcohol Harm

Laura Bunt, Deputy CEO at drug, alcohol and mental health charity We Are With You said: 

“Social isolation and a lack of a human connection is a big factor behind why some people turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism, so clearly the pandemic has been really tough for many people. When you consider that the UK had some of the highest levels of alcohol related harms in Europe even before lockdown, the need for government action now is clear. 

“Despite fears that the enforced isolation of lockdown was leading to an increase in harmful drinking, we saw a 72% fall in referrals into alcohol treatment in April compared to January of this year, with people worried about placing extra strain on the NHS. By June alcohol referrals had risen to their highest point this year, with these expected to rise further over the coming months.

“Overall, four out of five dependent drinkers aren’t accessing treatment. This has to change. We need better education around alcohol harms and what support is out there. Our treatment services are warm, non-judgemental spaces where we work alongside people to help them make healthier choices. It’s not about labelling people. The government must work to normalise the act of getting support so many people don’t have to struggle alone.

“That’s why we support the report's calls for increased duties on alcohol products. Alcohol is around 60% more affordable in real terms today than it was in 1980. Yet in March the government scrapped a planned increase in duty on beer and spirits, while tax on all other kinds of alcoholic drinks were also frozen. These extra funds could have gone towards treatment services which in recent years have seen budget cuts of up to 40% in some areas, helping them deal with increased demand in the coming months.”