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.
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.