What would you do if I gave you £500? A weekend break? New clothes? A Laptop?
That is how much we spend for every adult and child in Greater Manchester each year responding to the wide-ranging harms caused by alcohol. In case you’re wondering, it adds up to £1.3billion in total.
Having worked in Greater Manchester for almost 20 years, I still find the level of alcohol-related harm experienced by our residents shocking and unacceptable.
In relation to health, we know that every year in our region alcohol causes cancer for 1000 of our residents, leads to 22,000 hospital admissions, and result in 1300 lives being cut short.
One in five violent crimes are alcohol related.
The numbers of people unable to work and claiming benefits because of alcohol is 75% higher than the national average.
Approximately 15,000 children live with adults who are dependent on alcohol, and we estimate that over 1000 babies are born each year with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
These are not just statistics that we can be shocked by and then move on from, however uncomfortable they might make us feel. They should make us uncomfortable. These are real people, with real lives, real families and experiencing very real harm.
These people are you, me, our families, our friends and our colleagues. We all have a story to tell.
I have heard many of these stories over recent months and they are always unique. Some have been bravely shared by people like James, from Salford, who struggled with alcohol addiction for 15 years and is now helping others to make the difficult journey he has travelled by volunteering at the Achieve Salford recovery centre. Some are much more subtle and are about how we felt when our parents drank, or how alcohol has affected those who we are close to. It has been a privilege to hear these stories.
Devolution gives us a unique opportunity to tackle this issue head on, but we want to do so in the right way. This is not about moralising or being judgmental, but about joining together in an honest and meaningful conversation. It is about acknowledging that the vast majority of people use alcohol responsibly and that alcohol plays an important part in our region’s vibrant towns and cities, not least in our world class night-time economy. So we are currently reaching out to all of our city region’s residents and businesses, inviting them to join in the Big Alcohol Conversation – the biggest ever dialogue about alcohol in Greater Manchester.
I want us to work together to find solutions and shape our future vision for alcohol.
It’s easy to have your say – take part in our short and simple survey and talk about alcohol with your friends, families and colleagues.
Through the Greater Manchester population health plan we’re working to transform the health, wealth and wellbeing of our 2.8 million residents. Helping people to live well is one of top priorities, as we look to address our higher than national instances of lifestyle-related illnesses and challenge deep-rooted health inequalities. We’re doing this by supporting people to overcome addictions, such as through our Making Smoking History programme; or inspiring changes to behaviour across our population, like our GM Moving ambition to get 75% of our residents active; or through prevention and earlier identification and treatment of serious conditions, as in our aim to end new cases of HIV within 25 years.
Together we can make a difference.