Alcohol Concern

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Alcohol Concern is a fake-charity (#291705) that in the financial year ending 2011, received most of its £1.22M funds from the taxpayer[1].

Department of Health: £300,000

Welsh Assembly Government: £250,000

Consultancy Fees: £377,349[1]

It also sucked £142,084 out of the Big Lottery Fund

Its stated purpose is:

The national charity on alcohol misuse for England and Wales, campaigning for effective alcohol policy and improved services for people whose lives are affected by alcohol-related problems.[2]

So, a charity, funded by government, to lobby government.

While in the years since then the proportion of their funds received from the tax-payer have declined, they, as of 2013, still obtain less than 10% of their income from 'donations.'

In 2013, they still received a 5.2% increase of funding from the taxpayer on the year before, despite the whole country being 'in austerity' with alleged budget cuts across most areas of government.


Loss of government funding

It was announced in October of 2011 that the core funding for Alcohol Concern of some £300,000(2011[1])-£400,000(2010[1]) from the Department of Health was going to be withdrawn, with some rather unfortunate repercussions:

The consequence is that Alcohol Concern has had to sell its offices and restructure. The main victims of this are Chief Executive Don Shenker, and its full-time fundraiser, who have both had to resign because the charity can no longer afford to pay their salaries.

Some have suggested that this was Government “revenge” for Alcohol Concern walking away from the Industry Alcohol Social Responsibility Deal. I just think it’s a lesson in the hard reality of politics in a recession. If you set your face against public policy, don’t expect Government to give you scarce public money in order to assist you in doing so.

The fact is that Alcohol Concern, and their sister charity in Scotland Alcohol Focus, have hardened their position in relation to the issue of alcohol-related harms and how to reduce them. They’ve moved from promoting responsible drinking to advocating the reduction of alcohol consumption across the whole population – “We all need to drink less” - the Medical Temperance view. This has put them on a collision course with the drinks’ industry, and with a Government at Westminster which is signalling that the industry is part of the solution, not the cause of the problem.[3]


The chief executive of health charity Alcohol Concern, Don Shenker, is stepping down after the group failed to secure sufficient funding.

The charity's board decided to restructure the senior management team after core funding was lost, and cut the chief executive and fundraising director's roles down to part-time.

Shenker, who has been with the organisation for six years has decided to leave in favour of a full-time position elsewhere.[4]

Nevertheless, as can be seen from the Income section below, Alcohol Concern is still getting lots of tax-payer money from other grants and services provided to the government such as conferences, consultancy and training.

Campaigns

FIFA World Cup 2014

Lots of hand-wringing and shroud waving for this one. Since a few people are unable to control their drinking, everyone who likes to drink must suffer, and of course - because no-one listened too much to their hand-wringing, Big Alcohol were to blame..

A small smattering of Alcohol Concern wailing and gnashing their teeth:

Earlier this week charity Alcohol Concern said drink and football have become closely linked, and there are many "forces" during the much-anticipated sporting event which encourage people to drink too much. [5] [6] [7]

No. There really aren't.

Tom Smith, policy programme manager at Alcohol Concern, said: "The fact that Fifa has pressurised Brazil to overturn domestic law so that World Cup venues will now sell alcohol shows the power the drinks industry has already had on the Fifa World Cup 2014.[6][7]

As opposed to the Big Temperance Industry, who normally demonstrate the power they have over government, are - for a change - are being ignored.

Disregarding the truth to an MP - Jun 2014

Eric Joyce, MP, was somewhat concerned about Alcohol Concern's agenda...

I’ve noticed recently that some lobbyists are prepared to simply lie – or give no value at all to the truth – in pursuit of their apparent aims.

[...]

The thing about the article which immediately struck me is that Alcohol Concern, a ‘good cause’ lobbying organisation who say in their website they want to ‘make sense of alcohol’, was quoted as follows;

“It’s disappointing that Parliament isn’t leading by example, instead alcohol consumption continues to increase."

I wrote to Alcohol Concern and asked why it had given such a weird quote claiming increased consumption when it seems patently untrue – certainly un-evidenced. ‘Interim Chief Executive’ Eric Appleby, who’d been given as the source, wrote back. His reply, didn’t make much sense and included this classic of its genre:

“the niceties as to whether a 10% increase in spending represents an equivalent rise in consumption is frankly irrelevant”.[8]

The Welsh drink too much - 19 Oct 2012

Alcohol Concern Cymru is in nannying mode, spoiling it for sports fans this time.

[...] a campaign by Alcohol Concern Cymru, backed by a squad of Welsh sporting luminaries, is encouraging players and fans alike to keep an eye on their drinking.

[...]

They are also focusing on people who turn out for amateur sports teams across Wales, in the Don't Let Booze Ruin The Result campaign, as their research shows that 78 per cent of amateur sports players in Wales have hit the changing rooms on a hangover.

Those kind of high jinx aren't heroic, says Paul Thorburn, former Welsh rugby international.

"Traditionally there has always been a place for alcohol in sport, whether as a spectator who might drink before, during and after a game, or a player who celebrates a win after a competition.[9]

And is there anything wrong with that? Of course there is...

The survey by Alcohol Concern Cymru revealed 78% of amateur sports people in Wales have played sport with a hangover, and that 85% of Welsh sports fans drink every time they watch their favourite sport.

The campaign set out by ACC is designed to get sports fans and players thinking about how excessive drinking can ruin a good day’s sport. The latest campaign urges local clubs and players to pledge not to let alcohol ruin the result for themselves and their team.

Andrew Misell at Alcohol Concern Cymru said: “Sport is big in Wales, and often goes hand in hand with big-time drinking. We want to challenge the idea that sport and alcohol have to go together – whether we’re watching sport at the ground, in the pub, or on the sofa; or if we’re taking part on the pitch or socialising with teammates afterwards.[10]

As is usual with such 'research' there is no mention of the questions asked, the methodology used, the sample size, or even who participated (e.g. was it an internet poll, people being asked on the street, telephone polling etc.) especially in light of the unbelievably high percentages stated.

Baby boomers draining NHS resources - 12 Oct 2012

The first ever map of alcohol-related health costs, launched today by Alcohol Concern, reveals that the baby boom generation are the greatest burden on the NHS compared to all other age groups.

The figures reveal the inpatient cost of the 55-74 age group, closely aligned to the baby boom generation, is over ten times greater than the 16-24 age group, often negatively associated with 'binge drinking' and their impact on NHS resources. Furthermore, the baby boom generation inpatient costs are greater than the 16-24 age group inpatient costs plus all alcohol related A&E costs put together.[11]

Gosh! I wonder where they got the numbers from?

The picture across all local authorities is captured in the Alcohol Harm Map, produced by Alcohol Concern, in partnership with Lundbeck Ltd - www.alcoholconcern.couldthisbe.com. The purpose of the map is to reveal the real harm and cost of alcohol at a local level, so that local authorities and local health providers can ensure that alcohol prevention and treatment services are available to those with drinking problems.[11]

This really is a problem!

Oh, hang on...

Alcohol-related admissions are calculated in such a way that if you are unlucky enough, say, to be involved in a fire and admitted to hospital for the treatment of your burns, it will count as 0.38 of an alcohol-related admission – unless you happen to be under 15, when it won’t count at all.

If you drown, it counts as 0.34 of an alcohol-related admission – though most people unlucky enough to drown aren’t admitted to hospital. Getting chilled to the bone (accidental excessive cold) counts for 0.25 of an admission, intentional self-harm to 0.20 per cent of an admission.

These fractions apply whether or not there was any evidence you had been drinking before these disasters befell you.

Of course, much greater contributions to the total are made by conditions such as high blood pressure, which accounted for 383,900 admissions – more than a third of the total. Around a third of admissions for hypertensive diseases in men aged between 25 and 65 are attributed to alcohol, and around a fifth in women. There are far more of these admissions than there are for fires or accidents, so they contribute a huge proportion of the total.

Note that no account is taken of the amount these people actually drink. It is reasonable to suppose that only fairly heavy drinking could do enough damage to require an admission, but in calculating these figures the assumption is made that there is no threshold below which drinking is safe. So a third of all admissions for cardiac arrhythmias, for example, are attributed to drinking, even if the sufferer happens to be a teetotaller.[12]

The British Beer and Pub association also noted that Alcohol Concern were "grossly exaggerating" the 'problem' (for largely the same reason as above):

Lee Le Clercq Regional Secretary British Beer & Pub Association North of England told MM that the figures were misleading and that alcohol consumption has fallen since 2004.

He said: “One of the difficulties we have is that it is a very trusted lobby group by Joe Public because doctors always tell the truth.

“The public tend to hang onto every word they say which is unfortunate at times as I think they [the health lobby] are somewhat disingenuous and unfortunately they get away with it.”

The study said there were 120,815 hospital admissions in Manchester related to alcohol last year 81,099 of which were to A&E.

Male admission (£16.7million) cost nearly double the amount for females (£8.4million) and the biggest age group affected were 25 to 54-year-olds.

Mr Le Clercq argued with these figures saying that their data collection used the ‘attributable fractions’ method where other factors are considered when someone is admitted to hospital.

He said that any condition or illness associated with alcohol abuse (liver failure) would automatically result in that person being included in the figures even if their admittance was not alcohol related.

Mr Le Clercq added that alcohol consumption has fallen more than the 6.7% that research from Sheffield University said it would fall if a minimum price was introduced.

He added: “Sheffield University predicted a fall would happen if minimum pricing came in. It’s already dropped by more than that amount without minimum pricing.[13]


Unfortunately, this 'research' (mainly the map) produced a spate of over-enthusiastic headlines, along with lots of hand-wringing, in local media around the country, including - but not limited to:

  • Isle of Wight (£6m)[14]
  • Cumbria (£20m)[15]
  • Cornwall (250 people a day)[16]
  • East Anglia (£85.34m)[17]
  • Hampshire (£17.6m, 8,665 inpatients)[18]
  • Leicestershire (£43.8m)[19]
  • Manchester (£31.9m)[20]
  • Norwich (£43m)[21]
  • Plymouth (£17.2m, 110 people a day)[22]
  • Newcastle (Baby boomers cost 12 times binge drinkers)[23]
  • Swindon (£11.6m - though this is presented as good since it's 'below average.')[24]
  • Wigan (£23m with 107 dead)[25]

'Young targeted online' - 6 Sep 2012

To promote Alcohol Concern Cymru's 2012 annual conference, Alcohol Concern decided to claim:

Campaigners claim drinks firms are using the internet and social media to evade restrictions on promoting alcohol to young people.

[...] Andrew Misell, manager of Alcohol Concern Cymru, says drinks firms have long responded to restrictions on traditional forms of advertising to reach young people through other means, such as event sponsorship.[26]

Sadly there wasn't enough room in the BBC's report for Mr. Misell to elucidate on which particular research he was using to make such audacious claims. Presuming of course there was any, and not just gut feelings and barrel scraping such as

"Research has shown that alcohol marketing messages are getting through to children and young people well below the legal drinking age," he said.

"We know that youngsters exposed to alcohol marketing are more likely to start using alcohol and have more positive expectations about its effects.

"There needs to be a tougher stance on the rules governing alcohol marketing, including putting an end to alcohol industry sponsorship of sports and music festivals, and generally ensuring that where alcohol advertising is permitted it only reaches an adult audience." [26]

As has been demonstrated elsewhere, research on asking people's opinion is useless[27] - and one presumes it is asking kiddies "do you recognise this can of lager?" and if they say yes, then they are deemed to have been exposed to the evil advertising online.

ASA complaints

Lost - Estrella Beer - 3 Oct 2012

A complaint for an advert for Estrella beer was placed. Described as:

[...] the story of a young male traveller meeting two young women and the three of them exploring a Spanish island.

[...]

The man then approached the two women who were sitting outside a bar drinking Estrella and he showed them a map of the island. The following scenes featured the three characters driving around the island, swimming, sunbathing, on a boat and at a beach party together.

In one scene, the male traveller was shown carrying two bottles of Estrella on the beach.

In another scene, the main character and the dark-haired woman were seen trying hats on in the market and the woman kissed the man briefly on the lips.

In another scene, bottles of Estrella were distributed to a group of friends at a lunch gathering. A further scene showed the male character at a beach party being greeted affectionately by a male party-goer who was holding a bottle of Estrella. The ad ended with the male character being dropped off at the ferry terminal by the two women.

He kissed his finger and planted this affectionately on the dark-haired woman's lips. He walked up the gang plank and took a swig from his bottle of Estrella beer. As he lowered the bottle the story began again.[28]

Alcohol Concern had the following complaints:

1. linked alcohol with sexual activity, sexual success or seduction;

2. implied that alcohol contributed to the male character's popularity; and

3. implied that the success of the holiday depended on the presence of alcohol.[28]

All three complaints were thrown out[28].

Lost - Bulmers Cider - 19 Sep 2012

showed a man stopping people in the street and inviting them to a concert featuring his friend's band. Some were seen accepting, whilst others declined. The same man was then seen in a bar, where attendees of the concert had gathered. He announced "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome my friend's band, Plan B!" and his announcement was greeted with cheers from the audience. Plan B was seen walking to the stage and placing a glass of the advertised product down on an amplifier before beginning his performance. Crowd shots showed the audience smiling, dancing and holding glasses of the advertised product aloft.[29]

Alcohol Concern had the following complaint:

1. Alcohol Concern, on behalf of the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council (YAAC), challenged whether the ads implied that Plan B's confidence had been increased and, by implication, his performance improved, by the consumption of alcohol.[29]

While (not unusual in general) the ASA stuck their oar in:

The ASA challenged whether the ads:

2. were irresponsible, because they were likely to appeal strongly to people under 18; and

3. implied that the success of a social occasion depended on the presence or consumption of alcohol.[29]

All three were 'not upheld'[29].


Income

Accounts for financial years ending 31st March - items relating to taxpayer provided funds
2013[30] 2012[31] % 2011[32] %
Voluntary income
Grants - Consulting and Training £222,298 21.7% £209,336 22.8% £0 0%
Grants - Other £452,000 44.0% £353,536 38.4% £802,243 65.7%
Operating Activities
Conference & Publications £2,309 0.3% £18,128 1.5%
Consultancy & Training £253,058 24.7% £316,166 34.4% £377,349 30.9%
Total taxpayer income £927,356 90.3% £881,347 95.8% £1,197,720 98.2%
Total Income £1,026,828 100% £919,912 100% £1,220,285 100%

References

  1. a b c d Financial year ending 31 Mar 2011 - Charity Commission Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "accounts2011" defined multiple times with different content
  2. Alcohol Concern Homepage - Alcohol Concern
  3. Alcohol concern loses government funding - Chase on the Case blog
  4. Don Shenker leaves Alcohol Concern - Harpers
  5. World Cup alcohol licensing extension criticised - The Telegraph
  6. a b World Cup 2014: Fans issued grave warning over drinking - AOL
  7. a b Alcohol should not be 'central feature' of World Cup - BT
  8. Making sense of ? hic : ( - Erick Joyce MP
  9. Raise a glass to healthier way of enjoying sport - This is South Wales
  10. Sports fans urged not to let booze ruin enjoyment of game - Caerphilly Observer
  11. a b Baby boomers are draining NHS resources through alcohol misuse - Alcohol Concern
  12. Drink and disease: how figures can confuse - Straight Statistics
  13. Report revealing Manchester NHS Trust blow £39million on treating alcohol abusers is 'grossly exaggerated' - mancunianmatters
  14. [http://www.iwcp.co.uk/news/news/counting-the-cost-of-alcohol-on-the-isle-of-wight-46555.aspx Counting the cost of alcohol on the Isle of Wight] - Isle of Wight Country Press online
  15. Booze epidemic costing Cumbria £20m a year, says national charity - News and Star
  16. Cornwall's Alcohol Cost is Revealed - Pirage RM News
  17. Problem drinkers 'are the over-55s' - Cambridge News
  18. NHS reveals cost of alcohol illness - Salisbury Journal
  19. [http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/Baby-boomer-boozers-likely-fall-ill/story-17079665-detail/story.html Baby boomer boozers 'most likely to fall ill'] - This is Leicestershire
  20. Alcohol-related deaths soar in Manchester, while drink-related hospital admissions double North West average - mancunianmatters
  21. Norfolk’s drinkers leave NHS with a £43m bill - Norwich Evening News
  22. More than 110 people a day admitted to hospital in Plymouth because of alcohol - This is Plymouth
  23. Newcastle's baby boomers draining NHS resources through alcohol misuse - Chronicle Live
  24. Town bucks the trend of alcohol abuse - Swindon Advertiser
  25. Drinking ourselves to death - Wigan Today
  26. a b Drink firms 'target young online', Alcohol Concern Cymru claims - BBC Wales
  27. Focus Group; Problems and criticism - Wikipedia
  28. a b c ASA Adjudication on Wells & Youngs Brewing Company Ltd - ASA
  29. a b c d ASA Adjudication on Heineken UK Ltd - ASA
  30. http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends05%5C0000291705_AC_20130331_E_C.pdf
  31. http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends05%5C0000291705_AC_20120331_E_C.pdf
  32. http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends05%5C0000291705_ac_20110331_e_c.pdf