Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Wednesday, 31 December 2008

'Child alcohol guide' for parents

Child drinking wine
It is legal for children over five to drink alcohol at home

Parents are to be issued with government guidelines on letting their children drink alcohol at home.

Children can legally drink alcohol at home from the age of five under parental supervision.

The advice due in the spring from the chief medical officer will set out the health risks of alcohol to help parents set "safe boundaries".

Alcohol Concern said there was no safe amount of alcohol in children and that any advice needed to be "very clear".

The guidelines are being put together by the UK chief medical officers in consultation with experts and parents.

We would advise that children should have no more than a small sip of alcohol
Don Shenker, Alcohol Concern

Figures show among teenagers fewer are drinking alcohol, but those who do drink are consuming more than ever.

Clearer advice

A spokesman for the Department of Health said there was a need for clearer health information for parents on how drinking alcohol at a young age can affect children and young people.

"We currently have guidelines on alcohol consumption for those aged over 18 but none in place for those under 18.

"Given that it is legal for someone aged over five to consume alcohol and the risks of drinking to the health, development and welfare of children is greater than for adults it is a gap that needs addressing, and that is why we are taking this course of action," he said.

Parents will be given specific advice on the age at which children and young people could start to drink, how much is sensible for young people to drink and to what extent a young person's drinking should be supervised by parents.

Don Shenker of Alcohol Concern, said there was no clear evidence on what was a "safe level" of alcohol in the under 15s.

"For that reason we would advise that children should have no more than a small sip of alcohol."

He added that parents definitely needed more guidance and it would need to be very clear on what amounts of alcohol were safe at what ages.

"There also needs to be advice for parents on supervising other people's children in their care."

Mike Penning, Conservative health spokesman, said there is no doubt parents should act responsibly when giving alcohol to their children but that it is common sense.

"This is yet another example of this government's nanny state behaviour by telling people what they should be doing in their own homes."

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