'It's time to act': Why MPs Christian Wakeford and Dan Carden are working together on alcohol harm

At first glance, you might think they have little in common - two men on either side of the political divide. One, a Conservative MP in Greater Manchester; the other, a Labour MP in Liverpool.

But while Christian Wakeford and Dan Carden sit on opposite sides of the House of Commons, they stand firmly together on one issue which they say is destroying lives and breaking families apart - alcohol addiction.

Christian knows all to well the impact alcoholism has beyond the individual sufferer - on their families and on whole communities. He's lived it.

The 36-year-old, who represents Bury South, lost his brother to alcohol dependency. A death which he says "ripped the heart out" of his family.

Dan's heard this story before - and it gave him the courage to share his own.

The Liverpool Walton MP took the brave step of revealing in a Commons Debate how an alcohol addiction nearly killed him twice, as he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality.

Here's why he wanted to tell such a personal story:

Dan's speech brought some fellow MPs to tears - he himself had to fight back against his emotions as he spoke.

"I tried to do a few run throughs and I hadn't got to the end of it without breaking down myself. But i'm so glad I did it. I know how important being able to identify with issues like this".

"We need more people to do that", Christian agrees, "Your speech - I missed my train stop as I was watching it, and I could barely move it was that powerful. It shows it's not a personal choice, it's not a criminality - it's a health issue, and people need help.  

And more people could need help than ever before.

The latest figures suggests people are now drinking more at home, and drinking more dangerously:

These figures sadden both MPs, but they don't surprise either.

"I think my burning question is - if these are the ones we know about, how many more?" Christian asks, "How many are crying out for help and not being able to get it? And that to me is something we fundamentally need to change." 

Now in his third year of recovery, Dan has paid tribute to the family and friends who "quite literally, saved my life". But he has grave concerns that addiction support is not there for too many who need it.

So, what could be done about alcohol harm?

Both Dan and Christian sit on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm (APPG). Christian chairs it.

The aim is to promote discussion, and make recommendations to Government on policy related to reducing alcohol harm.

They want to see a specific alcohol addition strategy, which:

  • tackles the increased availability of excessively cheap alcohol

  • improves messaging so people can make informed decisions about their drinking

  • provides adequate support and treatment for people struggling with dependency on alcohol

When could we see a change?

Is the APPG actually being listened to?

It's a big question, with potentially many people's health and wellbeing at stake.

"No, I don't think we are at the moment," Christian admits, "I think that's why we need to come out with this meaningful document about what alcohol's impact is, on the individual, on the family, on society, and break that down into what it costs every department."

"From the impact on education for children of alcoholics, to health services, to local government, it is all encompassing, and I think while we have been making loud noises in the past I don't think it's been listened to yet."

What does the government say?

The Department for Health and Social care told us their new Office for Health Promotion will improve treatment and support on alcohol consumption.

A spokesperson said "Work is already in progress to address alcohol-related health issues, including establishing specialist Alcohol Care Teams in hospitals where alcohol-related admissions are high so vulnerable people get the help they need."

Do you need more information or support on alcohol issues?

Need help and advice?

For help and advice for the issues raised in the article, the following sources of support are available:

  • NHS 

  • Alcohol Change UK - a national charity providing advice and support

  • Adfam - provides support for families affected by drugs and alcohol.

  • Drinkaware - an independent UK-wide alcohol education charity

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