By Donal Musgrave
ADEMAND that the Government divert part of the £49 million a year it gets in tax on alcohol to the growing problem of alcoholism was made last week at an inter-faith meeting of social workers at Swindon.
The meeting, arranged by the Salvation Army, was attended by Anglicans. Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists and Catholics. Among the proposals made were a national effort to educate public opinion as to the nature of the disease and methods of curing it; teaching children of the dangers of alcoholism, and seeking the aid of voluntary associations and churches in solving the problem.
Theconference was told that urgent steps were needed immediately "to create concern, and foster tactical support for the country's alcoholics". There are now more than half a million of them in Britain and each "makes life tough" for five other people. About 30 per cent of the alcoholics were said to he Catholics.
Another key-point put forward run
was that drunkenness is rising steadily and is becoming an increasingly important factor in the crime rate. It was also pointed out that one in every 15 "social drinkers" is a likely alcoholic. The meeting. which was held to celebrate the third anniversary of the Salvation Arm Light Alcoholic rehabilitation centre at Highworth. Wilts. was attended by the Mayor of Swindon, Councillor M. Webb, and also by local clergymen and social workers. I wasthe first journalist from a Catholic newspaper ever to be invited to a Salvation Army meeting.
Councillor Webb called on the Government to devote some of the money it gets from taxes on alcohol tosolving the. problem of m "one of the great curses of our affluent society." He also asked the people of Swindon to help the Salvation Army in this work. Dr. Owen Gilmore. medical consultant to the Highworth centre, and a Catholic. hit out at two national Catholic organisations -for missing a golden opportunityof doing something concrete for alcoholics and involving themselves in ecumenical work. "Three years ago when this centre was run on a private basis by Mr. and Mrs. Bob Baldwin (now Capt. Baldwin) we had six alcoholics living in their attic," Dr. Gilmore said. -1 heard that a large house in the area was being sold at a low cost and wrote to two organisations trying to interest them. I am still waiting for a repls." He revealed to me after the meeting that the organisations were the St. Vincent dc Paul and the Catholic Prisoners' Aid Societies. Dr. Gilmore continued: "1 can only hope they did not get my letters. If they did, the situation speaks for itself. Another letter had gone to the Salvation Army and within a week three top-rank, ing officers had arrived from London and they bought the house and started the centre."
He appealed to all Churches and voluntary organisations to unite in solving the alcoholic problem. Mr. Herbert Kay. superintendent of the United Kingdom Alliance, proposed that the Government should spend money on an research, treatment d education. He questioned the morality of advertisements aimed at young people telling them "that if they do not drink there is something wrong with them—that they arc misfits if .they do not conform".