Should We Go Dutch?

There has been much talk across the media about the concept of abstaining from alcohol in January and whether Britain really does have a ‘drink problem’. Some commentators have pointed out that all this Daily Mail type hysteria is directing attention away from the minority who do have a serious drink problem. They are the ones who really need support and their problem, like many problems society tends to ignore; needs fresh ideas on how best to deal with it. So it was interesting to read about a new approach being pioneered in the Netherlands.

The Rainbow Group is a private foundation that seeks to help those that are struggling due to homelessness, drug abuse or alcoholism. Most of their funding comes from the Dutch government. This makes their latest initiative controversial; in some quarters at least. What they are doing is paying a small group of alcoholics-about 20 so far-to clean the streets of Amsterdam. Naturally they pay them in the currency they seek: cans of beer. The litter duty starts at 0900 and finishes at 1500 with breaks in between for beer and cigarettes. A hot lunch is also provided.
Not unsurprising the organisation is coy about revealing just how much funding they receive, but argue that it is a cost-effective way to deal with an “unchangeable reality”. Janet van de Noord, who runs the Rainbow Group's litter project explained: "It's quite difficult to get these people off the alcohol completely. We have tried everything else. Now this is the only thing that works. We might not make them better, but we are giving them a better quality of life and it's better for the neighbourhood, they're giving something back to society."

So far the results have been very promising with the police reporting less crime in the areas that the project works and local residents have also been complimentary about the scheme. With the savings in the drop in arrests and incarceration, Ms van de Noord is hopeful that other countries will abandon “old fashioned political correctness” and follow the same approach. Although it seems a fiendishly simple way to incorporate alcoholics back into society instead of ostracising them, given the current climate here, I can’t see Cameron & co green-lighting it here anytime soon.


alec wallace said…
I think it's always better to engage people given that many alcoholics and drug addicts will feel on the edge if society. Integration is surely a benefit. I'd be cautious about making it a single strategy solution, however with close development and monitoring of each individual, maybe change in physical and mental outlook can be supported to get people off the stuff they're on?
RedNev said…
If they're being paid with Heineken®, they have my sympathy.

No, it won't catch on over here, because the strategy (if that's not too grand a word for policies based on dogma) over here is to try to coerce everyone into doing things they don't actually want to do.
Tyson said…

Yes, i think the idea is that it's just part of a structured, multi-approach to the problem.

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