On 16 August 1819, at St Peter’s Field, Manchester a peaceful rally of 60,000 pro-democracy reformers, men, women and children, was attacked by armed cavalry resulting in 15 deaths and over 600 injuries. This is commonly called Peterloo and it is an important radical event in British history. Everyday people voiced their opinions and made a stand for free speech and popular democracy.
To commemorate in a small way the courage and determination of Peterloo we have invited church people of St Chrysostom’s to contribute a blog post on a subject about which they have concern and passion.
We are calling this small blog series #soapbox.
Here is the first contribution from Fr Chris:
Alcohol abuse or misuse is becoming more and more prevalent, yet services to respond to this increase are caught in the austerity cuts of this decade. The cost of a hospital bed was estimated at £400 night in 2017, and many people return time and time again to hospital because there just aren’t services or specialists to intervene in harmful alcohol use.
A trip into Manchester city centre at a weekend will see folk who are drinking and/or taking drugs to excess. When I come to Mass on a Sunday morning I pass a city centre pub serving breakfasts with some sitting outside at 10am with pints of lager.
As a young man I worked in France, where there was a relaxed attitude to drinking, and this European behaviour was supposed to cross the Channel when all-day, and later 24 hour drinking, became socially acceptable and legal.
When I worked in health promotion I learned that in the 1990s France was a leader in problematic Alcohol use – something that it has reversed as a nation.
Unfortunately, we still need to learn from other countries- Scandinavia has very high unit rate for alcohol, France a realistic educational policy, Scotland can teach us a lot.
There are “politics” in alcohol health promotion- a lot of the campaigns are backed or financed by the Portman Group which is, in turn, the respectable face of the brewers and distillers. Whilst it is in their interest to ostensibly promote sensible or responsible drinking, it is similarly against their interests to suggest curtailing or refraining from consumption.
We need a concerted and co-ordinated approach to sensible and responsible alcohol consumption. We need folk to have a positive regard for those who say publicly that they don’t drink, and for them not to have to hide behind lame excuses. We need money collected in alcohol taxes to be used to provide services for those who need them.
15 years ago a problem drinker in Manchester could be referred or self refer for detoxification and usually be admitted to a detox within days. There was follow on treatment, there were several dry houses and residential units providing rehabilitation and resettlement. Not everyone succeeded first time – addiction and recovery is like that – but the services were there.
Where are they now?! “One in 10 people in a hospital bed are alcohol-dependent and one in five are harming themselves by drinking” When and how will it end?