Government targets parents of underage drinkers

Parents of underage drinkers could face court orders in a government plan to curb antisocial behaviour.

In proposals to be published Monday, the Home Office wants parents of children who persistently offend to receive court orders and social worker visits after research revealed more than half of underage drinkers get their supplies from home.

Police will also get tougher powers to disperse groups of teenagers congregating in public under the proposals.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said yesterday: “Groups of under-18s drinking in public are an all too familiar sight. This type of drinking increases youth anti-social behaviour and crime, puts young people in vulnerable situations, and I want to put a stop to it.

“Parents must play their role too. If parents and children need to meet a trained worker to get them back on the right track, then so be it.”

The government is announcing its Youth Alcohol Plan tomorrow, which will also support giving anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) to children who are persistently caught with alcohol in public.

Ministers are in favour of outlawing children drinking in public altogether – although some groups are critical of the plans as they would criminalise more teenagers.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg told the BBC: “Trying to get parents involved is a good thing but once again the government is trying to create great fanfare for a new offence when criminalising people is not always the best way to deal with it.”

The government said the number of 11 to 15-year-olds drinking regularly had fallen from 28 per cent in 2001 to 21 per cent in 2006.

However, average consumption by school pupils who drank had nearly doubled from 5.3 units in 1990 to 11.4 units in 2006.