Local MPs Dr Andrew Murrison and John Glen have visited Clouds House in East Knoyle - one of the best known and longest established residential treatment centres in the UK for people with alcohol and other addictions - to learn more about the impact of cheap alcohol on addiction.

 

This ‘Action Visit’ was organised by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) and the Wiltshire-based charity Action on Addiction, which owns and manages Clouds House.

 

During the visits, the MPs for South West Wiltshire and Salisbury saw why the government needs to urgently take action on cheap alcohol. Touring Clouds House and speaking to staff and residents, the visitors learned about alcohol addiction and its devastating impact on individuals, families and communities, but also saw the life-saving work the team does to help people turn their lives around.

 

In England, there are more than one million hospital admissions and 24,000 deaths related to alcohol every year. Expert bodies including Public Health England and the World Health Organization say that raising the price of alcohol is one of the best ways to tackle alcohol harm.

 

In the UK, beer in supermarkets and off-licenses is now 188% more affordable than in 1987; for wine and spirits, it’s 131%. This is partly due to alcohol duty cuts: accounting for inflation, beer duty is now 16% lower than in 2012, cider and spirits duty 8% lower, and wine duty 2% lower. While demand for addiction services is increasing, public funds for treatment are going down.

 

Mr Glen, who is also a Minster at the Treasury, and Dr Murrison heard that the government needs to act quickly to reverse this trend, for example by increasing alcohol duty at the next budget and introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol. The latter was introduced in Scotland earlier this year.

 

Speaking at the visit, John Glen MP said:

It was great to visit Clouds House today and see the work the team is doing to help people start their recovery from addiction. Speaking to staff and residents, you can really see why Clouds House has such high success rates and is considered to be one of the best in the country.

 

Dr Andrew Murrison MP added:

In my professional life I have dealt with many people with addictive behaviour so I know the impact alcohol can have on an individual’s health but also on the wider community. Having services to help people on their journey to recovery is really important, and I am proud to have such an excellent service like Clouds House in my constituency.

 

Graham Beech, Chief Executive of Action on Addiction, said:

We were pleased to welcome Andrew Murrison MP and John Glen MP here at Clouds House. Addiction is a life-stopping condition and the work we do to help those affected by it is transformative, not just for our clients and their families but also for the wider community. Addiction has many and varied causes, and we share the Alcohol Health Alliance’s concern that alcohol is much more affordable today than it used to be, and consumption has increased. To reverse this trend, we are asking the government to help tackle cheap alcohol through duty increases and a minimum unit price for alcohol.

 

Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, commented:

Alcohol today is much more affordable than it was 30 years ago. This is not only damaging for our individual health and our families and communities, but also for public services like the NHS. For example, the Treasury will lose around £8.4 billion over ten years because of recent alcohol duty freezes; this would be enough to pay for 52,000 social care packages for older people. That is why we ask the government to increase alcohol duties in this year’s budget – we just can’t afford to freeze duties for another year.

Picture caption: L-R Katherine Brown, CEO of the Institute for Alcohol Studies; Sarah Schoenberger, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the AHA; John Glen MP; Graham Beech, CEO of Action on Addiction; Anya Sparks, Clouds House Treatment Manager at Action on Addiction.