Despite ‘increasing teen drinking problems’ funding cuts end vital outreach work on issue

Police and paramedics help drunk teen in Cookstown
Police and paramedics help drunk teen in Cookstown

Whilst police continually find themselves dealing with drinking teens, a Mid Ulster charity that could help deal with the issue, can’t - because of funding constraints.

Breakthru, which has long been delivering programmes to divert teens away from drink and drugs, has had to close its drop-in centre, as well as drop outreach programmes because it doesn’t have the money to keep them going.

Just over a year ago, Cookstown-based Tipsa was forced to close its doors after losing its funding to a Belfast-based group at tender.

The community-based group had been operating in the area for twelve years.

But as funding cuts take hold, police appear to be posting more and more pictures of alcohol confiscated from teenagers, with warnings that those involved could end up in court or have to take an alcohol awareness course.

Breakthru manager Bernadette McHugh said the charity is “aware of the continuing and indeed increasing problems associated with underage-street drinking across the Mid Ulster area and beyond - causing serious concerns and risks for young people, families and communities”.

She said: “Statistically young people under the influence of alcohol are more likely to be implicated with crime and the criminal justice system with 15% of all 12 to 17-year-olds involved in some form of anti-social behaviour during or after drinking.”

And while she says the charity has had many successes with its “detached and outreach work engaging with young people on the streets, offering diversionary activities and learning opportunities” she said funding constraints mean they “are not in a position to continue this vital work”.

“In the past we have been able to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to deal with areas of concern as they arose with good success but unfortunately this is not possible at present,” she added. “We will continue to try to source funding for workers and urge those with funding capabilities to consider the need for such preventative interventions.”