PARENTS are being urged to stop buying alcohol for their children after it emerged youngsters in Darlington were more than 50 per cent more likely to be admitted to hospital for alcohol-related conditions than elsewhere in England.

A Darlington Borough Council meeting heard the annual Public Health England child health survey of the borough had revealed 50.2 under-18s per 100,000 residents of the area were admitted for alcohol-specific conditions – in the year to March, compared to 32.9 elsewhere in the country.

The authority’s child and young people scrutiny committee heard the authority was developing a range of initiatives to discourage adults from supplying children with alcohol after another study, a survey of more than 6,000 Darlington borough pupils, found the majority of children who drink had the alcohol bought for them by a parent or a friend’s parent.

NHS advice states drinking alcohol can damage children’s vital organs and functions, and is associated with increased health risks, including alcohol-related injuries, involvement in violence, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.

While councils have traditionally tried to tackle under-age drinking by educating children and tackling off licences and pubs that serve children, previous initiatives in the town have also seen dozens of shops agreeing to refuse to serve under-21s in a bid to stop young adults buying alcohol for teenagers.

However, the meeting heard much of the authority’s latest focus was concerned with educating adults and attempting to change attitudes towards alcohol.

The council’s public health principal Ken Ross said “trusted adults” were partly responsible for Darlington’s high rate of children being admitted to hospital over alcohol.

He said: “The majority of those of school age are not buying it from shops that are selling it illegally. There is a big issue around the denormalisation of drinking culture.”

Mr Ross said while schools voiced concerns over the availability of alcohol at some events, such as parties to celebrate finishing A-levels, the underlying factor was parents buying children alcohol.

Mr Ross added the situation was being exacerbated by a “proliferation of licences with alcohol off-sales” across Darlington, in venues such as petrol stations “which 15 years ago you would never have thought would sell alcohol”.

He said he council would continue to work towards restricting supply, working within the permissive legislation.