Recent headlines about night club closures across the country would suggest the night-time economy is on the decline but according to the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers one third of all town centre turnover is generated after 5pm.
It's no wonder then that keeping a thriving night-time economy is a priority for many town centres, as is making sure that customers, the majority 18-24 year olds, are reducing their potential risk from alcohol-related harm.
Research for alcohol education charity Drinkaware shows that despite the overall alcohol consumption rate falling for 18-24 year olds in the UK, 60% students in this age group said in a recent survey they enjoyed going out to get drunk.
For the last two years Drinkaware has been running the Drunken Nights Out Campaign, a major component of this is their on-the-ground intervention Drinkaware Crew. These are trained individuals who work in large clubs and venues to help support the welfare of young adults on a night out. Working in pairs, Drinkaware Crew mingle with customers to promote a positive social atmosphere and provide assistance to those who may be vulnerable as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. This can include helping people who are lost to find their friends, supporting someone who is being harassed, or simply providing a shoulder to cry on. Drinkaware Crew work with other members of staff, such as security and first aid, to ensure customers have a happy, fun evening where the risk of alcohol harm is minimised.
The overall aim of Drinkaware Crew is to reduce the harm and costs associated with excessive drinking among young adults in the night-time economy.
The scheme successfully piloted in Nottingham in 2015 providing much needed support to venues and it was observed by the project partners that it had been valuable as it helped customers remain safe but also freed up managers and security staff to keep the venue operation running effectively.
Drinkaware Crew is currently active in 14 venues with an expectation that five more venues will follow shortly. In September it went live in South Wales for Freshers' week supporting several student union operations. Last year South Wales had a high profile issue with student safety following two serious sexual assaults, putting Drinkaware Crew in is one intervention that shows responsibility for welfare is taken seriously.
Drinkaware Crew staff report that they're dealing with vulnerability issues before they escalate and small interventions make a big difference - so staff carry water, sick bags and lollipops. The last one isn't just a goodwill gesture, it also helps keep the noise down when people leave venues.
Drinkaware's own activity data collected from ten venues between November 2015 and July 2016 showed staff offered 1542 cases of emotional support, 1247 cases of physical support and 271 cases of providing support outside the venue to ensure people got home safely.
They're also stepping up the 'stay with your pack' messaging on social media, the idea being that if you're going to enjoy your night out, you should do so safely. This is just one of many effective community partnership projects across the country working to minimise alcohol harm - there are many others - and we all need to play a part by enjoying drink responsibly and encouraging others to do so too.
Fiona Bruce MP is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol HarmSuggest a correction