Government launch new plans to support children of alcoholic parents

Children suffering at the hands of alcoholic parents will be offered a lifeline under new plans to provide them with quick access to support and advice.

An estimated 200,000 children in England live with alcohol-dependent parents, with the NSPCC reporting a 16% rise in calls involving drink or drug abuse in recent years.

The measures unveiled by the Government include fast access to mental health services and support for children and their families where there is a dependent drinker.

There is also funding to identify and support children who are at risk more quickly.

Outreach programmes to get more parents successfully through addiction treatment, and early intervention programmes to reduce the numbers of children needing to go into care, will also benefit.

The plans will receive £6 million in joint funding from the Department of Health and Social Care and Department for Work and Pensions.

Local authorities will be invited to bid for a portion of £4.5 million of the funding based on their local need, with priority given to areas where more children are affected.

Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The consequences of alcohol abuse are devastating for those in the grip of an addiction, but for too long, the children of alcoholic parents have been the silent victims. This is not right, nor fair.

“These measures will ensure thousands of children affected by their parent’s alcohol dependency have access to the support they need and deserve.”

Mr Hunt mentioned shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, who has spoken publicly of his experiences growing up with an alcoholic father.

“Some things matter much more than politics, and I have been moved by my Labour counterpart Jon Ashworth’s bravery in speaking out so honestly about life as the child of an alcoholic,” Mr Hunt said.

“I pay tribute to him and MPs with similar experiences across the House who have campaigned so tenaciously to turn their personal heartache into a lifeline for children in similar circumstances today.”

The NSPCC said it receives one call every hour related to drug or alcohol abuse.

Research shows that having an alcoholic parent can have a long-lasting and devastating impact on a child, with children of alcoholics twice as likely to have problems at school.

They are also three times as likely to consider suicide and five times more likely to develop an eating disorder.

And more than a third of all child serious case reviews involve a history of alcohol abuse.

Mr Hunt has appointed a dedicated minister with specific responsibility for children with alcohol-dependent parents – public health minister Steve Brine.

Mr Brine (pictured) said: “All children deserve to feel safe and it is a cruel reality that those growing up with alcoholic parents are robbed of this basic need.

“Exposure to their parent’s harmful drinking leaves children vulnerable to a host of problems both in childhood and later in life, and it is right that we put a stop to it once and for all.”

Chief social worker for children and families, Isabelle Trowler, said: “As a social worker, I have witnessed, too often, the devastating impact that alcohol addiction can have on families.

“Children often face chaos and conflict and sometimes violence and severe neglect.

“Parents struggling to cope need support to get back on their feet and children need to be provided with safety and stability.

“I warmly welcome this opportunity to reach those that need help and support.”

MP Liam Byrne, who lost his father following a struggle with alcohol and who chairs the all party group on Children of Alcoholics, said: “This is a huge step forward for Britain’s innocent victims of booze; the kids of parents who drink too much and end up scarred for life.”

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