Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP)

Earlier this month I met with the Portobello and Piershill Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP). Across the UK there are CAPS taking place in over 100 areas – the one in Edinburgh East being a Scottish Pilot. The CAP began in 2013 and brings together key local services (e.g. police and schools) with local businesses (supermarkets and independent retailers) and voluntary agencies.

The CAP aims to support Young People to have a balanced view of alcohol and to reduce alcohol related anti-social behaviour. Indeed, our local CAP has seen significant results in its short time: there’s been a 17% reduction in alcohol related anti-social behaviour in just 2 years.

Local police and shop owners work together to eliminate the sale of alcohol to under 18s and to implement the Challenge 25 project (where all those who appear under 25 are asked for ID to buy alcohol). There’s training for shop staff and visits prior to school holidays to reinforce the key messages. Since doing this, there’s been a significant reduction in alcohol being seized from young people each week.

But it’s about more than statistics. One aspect of the CAP has had much higher aims – to change the way young people talk about and view alcohol. That’s a significant challenge given that many of our young people use alcohol as a way of creating a social identity for themselves. The “cool group” in school are often the one that drink and post photos/stories on social media making others think they have to drink to be part of it.

Thanks to ‘Alcolols’ the discourse around alcohol has been changing in Portobello High School. No longer is a hangover the sign of a good social life. Young people have been trained in a dialogue technique and now lead discussion groups for 2nd and 4th year students. These groups are run by young people and only have young people attending (so no adults to make things awkward). I was fortunate to be able to talk to some of the group leaders and was impressed by the change they are reporting in their peer group. It’s not about not drinking at all, but being able to talk openly about alcohol and make informed decisions.

You may also be familiar with the youth bus that currently sits in Piershill Square but you may not know about the work they do. It’s about providing alternative activities for young people – general sessions where young people drop in alongside specific sessions based on what is happening locally (such as so called legal highs or racism). Interestingly, alcohol is no longer the biggest issue for young people in the area. It’s older people causing the issues with alcohol.

CAP provides another example of how agencies can work together, pooling their resources, ideas and knowledge to make positive, identifiable changes in our local community. Hopefully we’ll see this model rolled out further in the future.