Underage drinking initiative awarded

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Derry City Council has received a prestigious national award in recognition of its multi-agency work in tackling the problem of underage drinking within the city.

The Council was singled out among hundreds of local government bodies for the Municipal Journal Award, recognizing the success of the Challenging Underage Drinking Initiative. The scheme came out top in the Customer Behaviour Change category.

The scheme was launched in January 2011 by the Civic Alcohol Forum to address the problems of underage drinking and associated problems in the Rosemount and Glen areas of the city. Co-ordinated by the council, the scheme has pulled together many statutory, community and business organisations, whose combined efforts saw a significant reduction in the problems associated with underage drinking in these areas.

Their approach included introducing high visibility patrols, engagement with young people drinking in the area, and the establishment of the Foyle Off Sales Forum to reduce underage sales and proxy buying from alcohol retailers.

Following the introduction of the scheme, alcohol related crime reduced significantly, improving the lives of many local residents. The Deputy Mayor, Alderman Mary Hamilton, who attended the event in London, said it was a great honour to receive the award. “This is a fitting tribute to the hard work of so many local agencies, whose multi-partnership approach to this problem has made a real impact in the Rosemount and Glen areas.

“It demonstrates the importance of bringing people together to build positive relations within the community and establishing long-term solutions, rather than just attempting to deal with the aftermath of anti-social behaviour.”

Karen Phillips, Senior Environmental Health Officer from Derry City Council’s Environmental Health Department, who coordinates the project paid tribute to the work of all the agencies involved.

“This is a fantastic achievement that everyone who has been involved in the project over the last 18 months is really proud of. For my part, I am particularly impressed with how many local residents in the Rosemount and Glen areas have worked tirelessly to improve their local community and have engaged with young people to give them an alternative to underage drinking, with the support of the Statutory, Community and Business Sectors. My hope now is to extend the project to other areas of the city that suffer similar problems,” she said.