Revealed: Cost of alcohol abuse in South Tyneside is almost £60m a year

The cost of alcohol abuse in South Tyneside has been revealed. Pic by PA.
The cost of alcohol abuse in South Tyneside has been revealed. Pic by PA.

Drink problems cost South Tyneside a staggering £57.4million in 2015-16, according to new figures released today.

Balance, the North East’s alcohol office, has revealed the estimated cost for alcohol harm to the borough over the year equated to £386 per person.

All of us are paying dearly for alcohol misuse, whether people drink or not

Colin Shevills

South Tyneside Council has vowed to ‘tackle’ the issue by making alcohol more difficult and expensive to get hold of.

Balance say the high alcohol consumption was estimated to have cost South Tyneside £13.1 million in NHS and healthcare for services like hospital admissions, A&E attendances, ambulance callouts and treatment for alcohol dependency.

The figures also showed that alcohol cost South Tyneside £16.8million in crime and disorder, including 3,400 cases of criminal damage, 7,400 cases of theft and 1,100 cases of violence against the person.

South Tyneside businesses and employers also lost £19million over the year, say Balance, because of absentees, lost productivity and alcohol related deaths, including 31,300 days off due to alcohol.

The figures further break down as costing £8.5million to children and adults’ social services, and substance misuse services.

Balance director Colin Shevills said: “All of us are paying dearly for alcohol misuse, whether people drink or not.

“High alcohol consumption wrecks families, impacts on workplaces and is a drain on the NHS and police at a time when they are coping with huge budget pressures.

“Meanwhile alcohol is promoted around the clock on TV, billboards and social media, and sold too cheaply through cut price deals in supermarkets and convenience stores, especially in poorer areas where people suffer the worst ill health.

“What is needed now is action at national level to put health and public services above the interests of major alcohol corporations.

“Pricing alcohol by its strength and increasing tax on the type of strong cheap white cider popular with street drinkers and teenagers would save lives and reduce the burden on our front line services.”

Coun Moira Smith, lead member for area management and community safety at South Tyneside Council, said: “Misuse of alcohol impacts on individuals, families and communities and puts extra pressure on services such as A&E.

“That’s why we’re committed to reducing the affordability and availability of alcohol for all drinkers and have targeted measures to support those who are most at risk of harm.”

Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for independence and wellbeing at the council, added: “We are working in partnership with stakeholders to ensure we reduce alcohol-related harm.

“This means ensuring an integrated approach is taken to tackle this issue as well as having a comprehensive refreshed alcohol strategy for South Tyneside.

“This is reflected in our Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy (2017-21) which sets out how we are tackling the main health and wellbeing issues across the borough, the Blue Light Strategy Group which is made up of local statutory and voluntary sector organisations that are committed to engaging with street drinkers to reduce the negative impact their behaviour has on services, families and local communities.

“Alcohol brief advice training is also offered routinely to a range of organisations across South Tyneside which increases the opportunities to have the conversation around alcohol and signpost to appropriate services.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: “The cost of alcohol misuse to our society is enormous.

“It contributes to crime, unwelcome behaviours and can cause people to find themselves in very vulnerable, dangerous situations.

“I will continue to lobby and challenge the Government, partners and the industry to drive culture change.

“We need to ensure anyone who needs support gets it and to see an end to cheap alcohol sales – it’s time for change.”

An evidence review of the public health burden of alcohol published by Public Health England in December 2016 estimated the annual cost of alcohol to the UK to be between 1.3% and 2.7% of annual GDP - between £27billion and £52billion in 2016.

In comparison, tax and duty on alcohol generate around £10billion to the exchequer each year.