Heavy drinkers in Cardiff can now be taken home by a safety bus ran by Cardiff University and will be given wristbands saying “How did you get home?” as part of an awareness campaign.
The yellow “wristband of shame”, as considered by many citizens, is part of the new awareness campaign resulting of a joint force between Cardiff Council, South Wales Police and Cardiff University´s Student Union to tackle on the heavy drinking issue around the Welsh Capital.
Since last weekend, and every Wednesday and Saturday from now on, the “Wristband Campaign” will swipe the streets with a safety mini-bus run by the Student Union looking for alcohol victims that may seem lost, alone or in a dangerous condition. With both members of the Union and South Wales Police on board, the bus mission is to pick up drunk students and take them home safely.
Most importantly, the aim of this initiative is to tag them with the question “How did you get home?”, in order to make young people aware of the dangers of binge drinking. Students are also directed to Cardiff Digs, a website containing advice on sensible drinking, personal safety and more information on the city´s Student Safety Bus.
Cardiff Student Liaison Officer Emma Robson said: “The student safety bus has been hugely successful but it was our understanding that some individuals who were taken home or to hospital, may not realise how they got there due to their vulnerable state.”
The safety bus was introduced in May 2011, aiming to reduce robberies and assaults in the early hours of the morning. This bus, which takes home on average 6 or 7 students in a night, is free of charge and driven by South Wales Police student volunteers.
Emma Robson added: “Only individuals who may not realise how they got home will receive a wristband. The wristband does not act like a ‘bus ticket’, not everyone who is taken home by the bus will receive one.”
Student Liaison Officer Tim Davies, in charge of the campaign on behalf of the South Wales Police, welcomed this initiative as a positive measure, and added in an official statement that: “The scheme is just one of a range of initiatives in Cathays area, designed to keep students safe. Cardiff is a safe city and we continue to work hard with our partners to keep it that way.”
Although the wristband initiative is mostly welcomed by the student community, heavy drinking in Cardiff has been an on-going issue for students and young adults, and stains Wales internationally.
Andrew Misell, manager for Alcohol Concern Cymru, said: “People come here from all around the UK for what is known as a good night out. Cardiff obviously has a reputation that will be hard to get rid of, but if you look into other towns like Southampton or Swansea you’ll find that they register similar kind of problems.”
Although Mr. Misell welcomes the initiative, he stresses that there is still a lot to be done mainly because alcohol is not just a problem among students or young adults, but goes far beyond that. He says: “If you take a look at the statistics you’ll find that there is also a lot of drinking among middle age people, most of it at home. Of course it is easy to point the finger at students because they are out and they are more frequently seen falling over or engaging in devious behavior, but we can’t forget that there is also a lot of heavy drinking done in the shadows. People should not get into this self-justifiable attitude of I don’t have a problem, they have.”
Data recently released by the World Health Organization shows that globally 6,2 per cent of all deaths in the world are related to alcohol. The world´s highest consumption levels are found in the developed countries, especially in Europe.
Although Europe has the highest PAC rate (per capita consumption), around 12,50 litres of pure alcohol per person per year, the United Kingdom´s average is situated at the same scale, an issue which has been raising both government and NGO´s concerns for the past decade.
Mr. Misell said: “There are different patterns of drinking in different parts of Europe. In Northern Europe you see more levels of heavy drinking during the weekend and in southern Europe you seem to get more moderate drinking throughout the week. But in the UK we seem to do both of those.”
Last year´s Welsh Health Survey pointed out that two in five adults, 43 per cent of all adults, in Wales reported drinking above the recommended guidelines, on at least one day per week, and that around 27 per cent of those usually went on a binge drinking.