A ROW has broken out over plans to give free gym and leisure passes to people who have been convicted of alcohol-related crime.
Hull Citysafe, a community safety partnership supported by Hull Council, Humberside Police, NHS Hull and Humberside Probation Service, is seeking £29,000 to provide “diversionary activities” to people with drink problems who have been through the courts.
The request for funding from Humberside Police Authority says the alcohol treatment requirement service would add additional support, that “will include gym access to improve active lifestyle and a range of meaningful activities”.
The passes would be given once offenders had completed an alcohol treatment programme and not committed any further offences for three months.
But a senior city councillor said the proposal sends out the wrong message to young people and discriminates against the hard-working, law-abiding majority.
Councillor John Fareham, Conservative group leader on Hull Council, said: “I’m sure many people are working themselves into an early grave and we know in this country we work harder and longer than anywhere else in Europe, and I think it’s true we are dying younger than people in Europe, and that’s because people are trying to do the right thing by their families.
“I do take exception to this. I’ve got no problem with trying help, but not at the expense of the tax payer who will have to work even longer hours.
“This is where my Tory knee does jerk. This is sending out the wrong message to young people – don’t bother being responsible, you will get plenty of perks if you’re not.
“There has to be a line between meaning well, and I fully support other work Citysafe do like the Minerva project (to cut reoffending), and when compassion just becomes worthless and fails to reflect society’s moral values.”
Vicky Harris, head of substance misuse and offender health at Citysafe, defended the initiative.
She said: “I can see how people would take exception to that idea but that’s not the intention. What we are saying is people who have potentially had alcohol misuse problems, we need to look at a range of options to encourage them to do other things.
“We are certainly not saying we are rewarding people who have alcohol problems by giving them a long-term gym pass.
“These are ideas we are playing around with. We are looking at potential options and that was one of them. We are looking at other physical activities such as starting fishing clubs, running clubs and allotment working.
“It might be useful in offering tasters but we are not saying it’s an automatic right.
“It’s an exploration of how we can get people physically active and mentally active. The basic purpose of the proposal is to enhance the alcohol treatment requirement.”
A further £41,000 is being sought to fund two part-time “alcohol court link workers”.
A report shows that alcohol-related hospital admissions have increased by 160 per cent in the East Riding in the last eight years, and by 109 per cent in Hull.
Nationally, almost a million alcohol-related crimes were recorded in 2010/11.