Promoting the safe use of alcohol 

The misuse of drugs and alcohol feature high in the regular incident reporting in children’s homes and services.

Developing a robust policy around how alcohol incidents will be managed and how your staff team respond should be taken seriously.  Also, boundaries on alcohol in the workplace should be established and well-known by your team.

The use and abuse of alcohol is a serious problem in society at large and children and young people in care are particularly vulnerable to the use and misuse of alcohol.

  • The government is committed to reducing the incidence of alcohol related harm. The Health of the Nation, white paper sets out specific targets for reduction in the number of men and women drinking at levels that carry a risk of damage to health.
  • Equally, controls on the purchase and consumption of alcohol relating to young people are contained in the Licensing Act 1964, and again the Government has committed to ensuring that the licensing laws are complied with. However, young people have a much greater opportunity for access to alcohol than used to be the case and are often subjected to enormous peer pressure to participate in drinking alcohol and thus potentially vulnerable to the damage that alcohol can cause.
  • Government advice on sensible drinking for adults is that consumption of up to 21 units per week for men and up to 14 units per week for women is unlikely to lead to any significant risk to health. A unit is 8 grams of alcohol, roughly the equivalent of half a pint of normal strength beer or lager, a glass of wine, or a pub measure of spirits.

Your team should be committed to ensuring young people are sufficiently educated about the use and misuse of alcohol and are provided with guidance and support so that they are better equipped to make informed choices and decisions in this regard.

Since young people under the age of 18 are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol, the levels of consumption that are likely to be risk-free are lower than the 21 and 14 units per week. Adolescents become intoxicated more quickly than adults, and some or more susceptible to peer group pressure which is likely to encourage the use of alcohol.

Alcohol is potentially dangerous in two ways:

  • Substantial drinking can lead to health risks and, in extreme cases, to alcohol dependence.
  • Intoxication can lead to uncontrolled, disorderly or dangerous behaviour.

Professional staff involved in working with young people have a particular responsibility in relation to alcohol use, especially in a residential setting. Staff should not consume alcohol when on duty or arrive for duty suffering from the effects of alcohol consumption because:

  • The consumption of alcohol, even in small quantities reduces concentration and impairs responses, and may lead to unprofessional conduct.
  • The irresponsible use of alcohol will set young people a bad example.

Your Alcohol Policy

When developing your alcohol policy, you will want to consider the following things,

  • check
    Young people under the age of 16 years should be dissuaded from drinking alcohol. There may, however, be some young people aged less than 16 years that arrive with an established habit of drinking alcohol. Such young people will need to be cared for in accordance with an approved programme of treatment designed to ensure that they achieve a sensible use of alcohol by the time they are an adult. In such circumstances it is essential that agreements are reached with the placing authority and this is detailed in the care plan/pathway plan for the young person.
  • check
    Subject to the Licensing Act 1964, young people over sixteen years of age might be allowed to drink alcohol, but only when it is agreed by the young person’s social worker and they are under the supervision of a responsible adult.
  • check
    Members of staff must not come on duty under the influence of alcohol and must not be under the influence of alcohol in any situation where it may affect their ability to carry out their duties. 
  • check
    Whether staff should be able to take young people into public houses for meals and social experiences unless this activity contravenes the law, local bylaws, or the young person's care plan.

Due to the vulnerabilities of young people in your care, taking the safe use of alcohol seriously should feature high in your health and well-being outcomes for children and young people.


Get Policies, Procedures and Documents for your service. More details can be found in our shop or for bespoke packages contact us on