Suffolk: Teens bribed with booze to go to school

IPSWICH: Alcohol is being used as a reward by some parents to encourage their children to attend classes, it can be revealed today.

The shocking revelation comes as trading standards officers, A&E staff and alcohol support workers gear up for the annual spike in underage drinking which occurs when the days get warmer and evenings are lighter.

Marc Titford, Principal Trading Standards Officer for Suffolk County Council, said stamping out underage drinking is more difficult than ever because of the way youngsters are getting their hands on wine, beer and spirits.

He said: “A community safety officer has reported that she is aware of scenarios where kids who are having problems at school are rewarded by their parents at the end of the week with a four-pack of Stella.

“These are 15 and 16-year-olds and it really is an area that is very hard to tackle.”

Due to the increase in underage drinking during the school holidays, the trading standards team hit shops in Ipswich and further afield during the Easter holidays. They used teenage volunteers to test shops in Ipswich and at each of the 12 stores they visited, staff asked to see identification.

He said shopkeepers are now well aware of the penalties of selling alcohol to children.

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“We have done really well in the last five years. In Suffolk, the failure rate for test purchases was 60 per cent in 2005/6 but by 2010/11 we had got it down to 15pc.”

In west Suffolk the issue of adults buying alcohol for youngsters was tackled by the team and the results were very different.

Mr Titford added: “Proxy sales are proving very difficult to deal with. We ran a campaign in west Suffolk and ten or 12 adults were prepared to buy on the behalf of our volunteers.”

Nina Clark, service manager for the Matthew Project Under 18 Ipswich, spoke of her concerns about the dangers youngsters will put themselves in this summer as they binge on a cocktail of cheap booze.

She said: “Underage drinking is a particular problem in the summer when young people are sat outside in the park drinking.

“Health wise, there are development issues and the risk of falling unconscious or choking but the biggest concern is around personal safety and the potential risks that young people can encounter.”

The project is part of the 4YP partnership, which deals with youngsters with drug and alcohol dependency problems.

n Is there an underage drinking problem in Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

n Anyone who is concerned about the drug or alcohol use of a person under 18 can call a 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 0003 for free and confidential advice and support.