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Does Lambourn's horseracing community have a drink problem?

Health watchdogs and industry welfare charity don't see eye to eye

John Garvey

John Garvey


01635 886628


DOES Lambourn’s horseracing community have a drink problem?

West Berkshire’s Health and Wellbeing Board thinks it does.

But the Racing Welfare charity in Lambourn believes it is no more a problem for the industry than for any other section of society.

In January the board – established and hosted by West Berkshire Council and comprising representatives from the council, police, medical and pharmaceutical professions – heard from Denise Sayles, the district’s senior programme officer for substance misuse.

She reported that she had attended a recent meeting of the Hungerford Multi-Professional Lens, described as a support group for families and children, and said that concerns had been raised regarding the consumption of alcohol among the racing community.

The minutes recorded that “the Alcohol Harm Reduction Partnership would consider its next steps”.

Previously, in November 2016, the board noted it should prioritise its work according to local needs, stating specifically the goal of working with the horseracing industry “to promote sensible drinking and a joined-up approach”.

But a director of Racing Welfare, Simone Sear, said: “We’ve no evidence that alcohol consumption in the horseracing industry is any higher than in any other sector of society.

“Indeed, in 2006/07, the industry conducted research and those were the findings.

“Statistically, it was even lower than in some other industries.

“Anything we hear to the contrary tends to be anecdotal.”

She added: “It might be perceived as a problem for the industry, but we’re not convinced.

“The biggest presenting welfare issues for us are physical health, accidents and injuries.

“There were around 2,600 support sessions or interventions around those issues in 2017 compared with 195 centering on addiction – and that’s all substances, not just alcohol.

“Having said that, our key message here at Racing Welfare is that we’re here to provide help and support to everyone in the industry.

“We have a 24/7 support line and our welfare officers are all trained, mental health first aiders, who will help people to access the appropriate, specialist facilities – therefore we maintain partnerships with local drug and alcohol services.”

Ms Sear concluded: “Meanwhile, we’ve just commissioned a year-long study looking at mental health issues, including substance misuse, which will help us formulate better responses.”

West Berkshire Council spokeswoman Joanne Bassett said the issue had also come up at a recent Community Conversation held in Hungerford by the Building Communities Together partnership.

She said: “Local residents raised the issue of high levels of alcohol consumption within the racing community.”

In response to this, said Ms Bassett, “available support will include training with individual yard owners to raise awareness of safe levels of drinking”.

She said: “Officers from West Berkshire Council and Swanswell [an adult substance misuse service] will also work with individuals to ensure they get the support they need where necessary.

“This will take place in addition to work done by The Alcohol Harm Reduction Partnership, which is a sub group of the Health and Wellbeing Board.”

West Berkshire Council’s executive member for Public Health and Wellbeing, James Fredrickson (Con, Victoria), said: “I’m pleased that the Community Conversation in Hungerford has given residents the opportunity to raise their concerns about the important issue of alcohol harm.

“The Health and Wellbeing Board’s partners are working together to understand the level of this problem and will be offering the community the support they need to tackle this issue.”

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