Increasing alcohol duties by just 1 per cent would raise around £100m a year to invest in treatment services, according to a new briefing paper. While this would equate to an extra 3p on a pint of beer or 5p on an average bottle of wine, it could increase alcohol treatment budgets in England by 50 per cent, says The alcohol treatment levy, which is produced by the charity formed by the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK.
More than two thirds of local authorities cut their alcohol treatment budgets between 2016 and 2018, says the document, with 17 making cuts of more than 50 per cent. More than half of the authorities experiencing the most severe cuts were also in areas with high percentages of dependent drinkers.
A ‘significant proportion’ of alcohol’s annual £3.5bn cost to the NHS comes from ‘a relatively small group of individuals with very complex needs’, the paper points out, with lack of adequate treatment meaning the burden frequently falls on A&E departments.
‘While every year the alcohol industry generates around £8bn from the 4 per cent of the population who drink most heavily, cuts to alcohol treatment services are having a devastating effect across the UK,’ said the charity’s director of research and policy development, Dr James Nicholls.
‘This is out of balance. We should not leave people with severe alcohol problems unsupported, nor should we leave the 200,000 children living with a dependent parent to fend for themselves. We as a society urgently need to find more money to support essential services. That will help people who drink too much and their families, but it will also save the taxpayer money by avoiding higher costs down the line that could be avoided with treatment.’
Briefing paper here