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Parental alcohol abuse affects 700,000 children

The Children’s Society warns of the effects on children of parental alcohol abuse

Published on 8th November 2017

Around 700,000 young people across the UK are damaged as a result of parental alcohol abuse, research by The Children’s Society has found.

Almost 60% of these teenagers have a parent who is also suffering from depression or anxiety. Almost a quarter of teenagers from homes damaged by alcohol misuse were also taking on caring responsibilities at home, likely to include domestic chores, taking care of siblings or nursing parents suffering from withdrawal.

The charity’s survey of 3,000 families with children aged 10-17 found that two in five children have lived with domestic violence and more than 1 in 4 have been homeless in the last 5 years.

Adult mental health problems were apparent in almost 60% of households where alcohol was abused and in 44% of families where a parent had a longstanding illness or disability. The charity warns that adults may be self-medicating with alcohol to cope with these and other stressors in the family.

The Children’s Society warns that children in households where a parent is abusing alcohol are placed under extreme pressures and can lead to them developing mental health problems, running away from home or being excluded from school.

The Children’s Society Chief Executive Matthew Reed said: “Millions of teenagers in the UK are suffering in silence with problems that would floor an adult. The hundreds of thousands of children whose parent has a drinking problem are sadly just the tip of the iceberg of children in desperate need of support. At a time when demand for council children’s services is rising, severe funding cuts from central government are leaving more and more to deal with these huge problems alone.

“Specialist services working with families to combat problem drinking, support for teenagers whose parent has mental ill health, or safe spaces for them to go when pressures at home mount, are becoming ever harder to find. Without support at an early stage as problems emerge, these families can quickly reach crisis point and the risks for the children involved grow.”

Figures from the charity also show that more than 1.6 million teenagers have a parent with depression or anxiety and 1.7 million teenagers are living in homes struggling with problem debt.

The Children’s Society argues that local services are crucial to make sure children in families affected by alcohol misuse are identified and that they are kept safe and well, but as cuts to children’s services bite, the early intervention services that could identify struggling young people and provide targeted support have shrunk across the UK.

The Children’s Society is calling on the government to urgently address the £2bn funding gap for local council children’s services.

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