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Last year, two in every five (39%) violent incidents in England and Wales were alcohol-related. This statistic has remained unchanged for about 10 years.

New research shows the burden of this violence falls disproportionately on the most disadvantaged among us, driven by the highly disproportionate rates of alcohol-related domestic and acquaintance violence that these groups experience, writes Lucy Bryant, Research and Policy Officer for the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

Analysis of Crime Survey data for England and Wales shows these groups experienced as many as 14 times the number of alcohol-related domestic violence incidents per 1000 people compared to the most advantaged.

Lockdown implications

Lockdown has seen a change in our national alcohol consumption and drinking patterns. In March, alcohol sales in supermarkets rose by 22%, and in off-licenses by 31%, as people stockpiled alcohol to drink at home before the enforced isolation.

Reports of domestic violence have risen dramatically since lockdown measures began. In the UK, the National Domestic Abuse helpline saw calls rise by 25% within weeks of lockdown beginning. In addition, the UN Population Fund predicts at least 15 million more cases of domestic violence globally due to the Covid-19 restrictions. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) has said it is facing a surge in calls from young people stuck in toxic and abusive households during lockdown.

“With domestic violence, alcohol consumption, and the harms of inequality all apparently increasing, the highly disproportionate rates of alcohol-related violence – particularly domestic violence – that those in the lowest socioeconomic groups were already experiencing could worsen. I question whether current policy is equipped to address this”, asks Ms Bryant.

According to Ms Bryant, the provision of domestic violence services in England and Wales was inadequate before Covid-19 began. “The sector is under a ‘sustained funding crisis’, and figures for 2019 show 60% of those referred to domestic violence refuges were turned away.” This affects the lowest socioeconomic groups to a greater degree than others, which reduces the chance of victims escaping violence.

Interventions needed

Population level alcohol interventions should form part of a suite of policies addressing domestic violence, says Ms Bryant. For example, the World Health Organization advocates alcohol price regulation as being effective in ‘preventing intimate partner violence’. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have all acted on this evidence, introducing or set to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol. This policy is modelled to disproportionately benefit the health outcomes of the most deprived groups, suggesting the potential to do the same for victimisation.

“Westminster Governments have remained an outlier. Not only has minimum unit pricing not been enacted, but alcohol duty has not increased with inflation for seven of the last 8 years. Policymakers should consider whether their current path can truly generate the transformative change we need.”

Sobriety tags could be the answer

Earlier this month, it was reported that offenders who commit alcohol-fuelled crimes may be required to wear sobriety tags.

With the SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring® (SCRAM CAM®) ankle bracelet, results are automatically gathered and uploaded without the need for an individual’s participation. As shown by the pilot projects, continuous monitoring can provide local authorities, courts and child-protection agencies with the tools to change behaviours in vulnerable and higher-risk alcohol-dependent clients.

You can read more about SCRAM CAM® on our webpage and Frequently Asked Questions. For further information, about our other alcohol testing methods, call AlphaBiolabs now on 0333 600 1300 or email info@alphabiolabs.com