During the run-up to our 25th Birthday celebrations, we have reflected on some of our past projects, and the impact our work has had on other organisations. Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, was kind enough to write us a short blog detailing her reflections on working with Children’s Parliament in 2019 on an Alcohol-Free Childhood.

This week (15th – 21st November) also marks Alcohol Awareness Week in Scotland. To learn more, follow @AlcoholFocus on Twitter here.

Alcohol affects us all, whether we drink or not. We knew that children consistently expressed concerns about alcohol during Children’s Parliament programmes, projects and consultations, and that’s why Alcohol Focus Scotland asked Children’s Parliament to further explore the views and experiences of children aged 9-11 years old. We asked them to look at the impact that alcohol has on children’s lives and what the vision of a childhood free from alcohol might mean for children.

Observing the sessions led by the Investigators, and the outcomes of their work gave us an insight into what really matters to children. As adults it’s easy to assume that as an age-restricted product children don’t really notice alcohol advertising or people drinking. This work has shown us how often children are seeing alcohol – from opening the fridge at breakfast time, throughout the day in shops and on billboards and while playing in the park, to in their homes and on TV at night. The children were aware of the negative impact this could have on both adults’ and children’s wellbeing.

The Scottish Government’s Alcohol Framework committed to putting children and young people’s voices at the heart of developing preventative measures on alcohol in Scotland. Importantly, this work with Children’s Parliament was underpinned by a rights-based approach and highlighted the lived experience and views of children. Part of this project involved asking the children what an alcohol-free childhood meant to them, and what was needed to make this a reality. While clear that all children’s rights are connected, the Investigators recognised that certain rights were more likely to be realised through an alcohol-free childhood, for example the right to be with adults who do what is best for them, the right to protection from harm, the right to protection from dangerous drugs as well as the right to be listened to and taken seriously.

The Investigators developed a set of calls to action to ensure all children grow up in a Scotland free from the negative impact of alcohol. These included removing adverts for alcohol so that children can’t see them, making alcohol less visible in shops and on tv, and stopping alcohol sponsorship of events at which children may be present.

Hearing directly from children about what would make their lives better is powerful. We need to listen to what children are telling us about how we can better protect and promote their right to grow up healthy and happy, free from alcohol harm. The findings of this Investigation serve as clear evidence for national legislation, policy and practice which place children’s human rights at the heart of one of the key challenges we face: Scotland’s relationship with alcohol. Members of Children’s Parliament presented these calls to the First Minister and her Cabinet and Ministers have committed to listening to children’s views as part of the upcoming Scottish Government consultation on alcohol marketing restrictions. AFS and Children’s Parliament will be holding them to this promise. Watch the film below.


Read the children’s report here: “It’s all around you all of the time” (2019)
(Children’s Parliament Investigates: An Alcohol-Free Childhood For Alcohol Focus Scotland)

Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland
Twitter: @AlisonDouglas18

An Alcohol-Free Childhood: A Reflection