SILENT VOICES: SUPPORT CHILDREN
AFFECTED BY PARENTAL SUBSTANCE MISUSE
Children’s commissioner Dr Maggie Atkinson has published a report on how children are affected by their parents’ heavy drinking, and urges that its vital recommendations be acted on before they lose their childhoods.
Download AddictionToday139 – Silent voices of children
“The effects of parents’ alcohol misuse on children may be hidden for years, while children try both to cope with the impact on them, and manage the consequences for their families. Our research gives a timely reality check, but more importantly a fresh perspective by drawing attention to what children say about the problems it causes in their own lives, now. It does not concern only child protection professionals, though alcohol abuse can put children’s safety at sustained, serious risk. The problem affects large numbers of children who never come to the notice of children’s social care,” reveals children’s minister Dr Maggie Atkinson in a recent report: Silent Voices: Supporting children and young people affected by parental alcohol misuse by Jon Adamson, Lorna Templeton and Jenny Clifton.
Below are estimates of children under 16 years old living with parental alcohol misuse in the UK.
>> 30% (3.3-3.5million children) live with at least one parent who is a binge drinker; binge drinking is counted as six or more units on a single occasion for women, eight for men
>> 8% – more than 950,000 children – live with at least two binge drinkers
>> 4% – just under 460,000 children – live with a lone parent who is a binge drinker
>> 22% – over 2.5million children – live with a hazardous drinker: this is defined as a pattern that increases the risk of harmful consequences to the user or others
>> 2.5% – 298,988 children – live with a harmful drinker; harmful drinking is defined as resulting inconsequences for physical and mental health
>> 6% – over 700,000 children – live with a dependent drinker
>> 4% – about 500,000 children – live with a parent who is a problem drinker with co-existing mental-health problems
>> About 79,000 babies under a year old in England are living with a parent who is classified as a ‘problematic’ drinker (‘hazardous’ or ‘harmful’). This is equivalent to 93,500 babies in the UK
>> About 26,000 babies under a year old in England are living with a parent who would be classified as a ‘dependent’ drinker. This is equivalent to 31,000 across the UK
>> In Scotland, 2.5% of children live in households where there was violence between adults when at least one adult had been drinking; this affects more than 24,000 children.
“Change the public perception towards alcohol, particularly how it is portrayed in the media. Denial is a large part of what we live with,” said children who turned for support to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics and who are quoted in the report.
Some of the young people in the Nacoa group thought there were benefits for children in seeing ‘alcoholism’ as a disease, as this could be used to help children understand their parent’s problems. The strong ties which many children continue to hold to their parents despite the difficult circumstances in which they have lived came across strongly. Young people in the Nacoa group also expressed pride in surviving their experiences, which had made them who they are.
Among the report’s recommendations is that Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards and newly developing Health and Wellbeing Boards ensure that the issue of parental alcohol misuse is well understood in their local area and that the needs of children and families are addressed in planning and commissioning services, utilising the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment.
Rehabs and addiction specialists should play a mutually-beneficial proactive role here.
Silent voices highlights 35 key points including recommendations for the future. Do read them in this excellent report, which can be downloaded free of charge.