Help kids in drink abuse homes, says commission


Maggie Atkinson: ''This is not about punishment, this is about support''

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The government should pay as much attention to the parents who drink too much as it does to those who misuse illegal drugs, says a report.

Research carried out for the Children's Commissioner for England suggests more than 90,000 babies in the UK live with a problematic drinker.

Maggie Atkinson said large numbers of affected children received little support from social services.

But the government said its reforms would help identify problem drinkers.

Figures suggest more than a fifth of all children in the UK, approximately 2.5 million, are living with a hazardous drinker, defined as someone whose alcoholic intake could have harmful consequences for themselves or others.

'Lost childhoods'

Ms Atkinson is urging the government to give as much attention to alcohol abuse among parents as to other forms of drug misuse, and to train the relevant authorities to spot the signs of alcoholism in families earlier.

Pregnant woman with glass of wine The report says parental alcohol misuse is not taken as seriously as drug misuse

She said alcohol abuse by parents harmed more children than the misuse of illegal drugs, yet the problem was not taken as seriously.

She said action was needed to prevent more children "losing their childhood".

The Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) published a report called Silent Voices - supporting children and young people affected by parental alcohol misuse, to highlight the extent of the problem.

A girl in Nottinghamshire told the authors of the report: "My brother, who is 10, says he wants to end it all, my mum also says she wants to die. She really needs to talk to someone but there is no-one? I am not getting any sleep. I am scared what I will find when I wake up or what might happen whilst I am sleeping."

The OCC commissioned the Community Research Company to look into the problem and its research suggested 79,000 babies aged under one in England are living with a parent who is classified as a problematic drinker, which they extrapolated to 93,500 babies in the UK.

'Hidden harm'

The research also suggests 26,000 babies in England are living with a parent who is a "dependent drinker", which is equivalent to 31,000 across the UK.

Ms Atkinson concluded: "At a time of great changes in the health service, to developments in programmes to address 'troubled families', of changes to statutory guidance on inter-agency working and of pressure on all services due to funding cuts, it is essential to highlight the significance of this problem to ensure that services are adequately targeted at this high level of hidden harm."

She added: "Over the last 10 to 15 years there have been improvements in policy in terms of recognising and attempting to respond to children affected by parental substance misuse in the UK. Despite this, there remain limitations to the progress made in respect of alcohol misuse. The improvement in support for children requires a co-ordinated, collaborative approach."

A government spokesman said: "The earlier that help is given to vulnerable children and families, the more chance there is of turning lives around and protecting children.

"Our reforms are focused on cutting unnecessary bureaucracy so professionals can identify and tackle problems as early as possible.

"By overhauling the alcohol licensing laws, local communities will have more power to tackle problem pubs and clubs. We are working with the alcohol industry which has pledged to take one billion units out of the UK's alcohol intake and introduce a minimum unit price."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    The root cause of the problem is the low price and 24/7 availability of alcohol. If the duties were doubled, pubs closed at 11pm on weekdays and 5pm at weekends, we would see fewer drunks on the streets, and more sober parents taking responsibility for their unruly children who roam our towns after darkness has fallen. Simple and obvious solutions are not politically popular, though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    I'd advise anyone reading this to go onto the NACOA charity website and read the personal experiences from children of alcoholics themselves. Only then you will understand the impact drinking has on a child.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    A good old bit of naming and shaming might bring some of these people to their senses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    How about bringing back the "Off License" shops, & reduce the supply?

    Growing up with a drinker is a nightmare. Childhood is over when kids have to climb over the drunk to get to the loo on a regular basis, or they have to deal with the unstable mood of the drinker, causing them worry & anxiety when they should be care-free.

    The problem is huge, it needs billions to sort it out.

    It wont happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    There's far too much talk about authorities, state and government intervention. How long until it dawns on people that society is responsible for these issues and that the solution can only come from society?

  • Comment number 26.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.


    lack of Funding for Social Work, overburdened with case's and the demonizing of the parents by the current government have all led to this situation."

    Things were better under the last Government? Making political capital out of situations like this helps no-one & is part of the problem. I feel sorry for those abused under the 'wrong Government' as they don't count in your eyes.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    16 Or even "the parent".

    17. "re- educating the middle class to drink less" How awful. What do you have in mind? Some type of cultural revolution in which the middle classes are sent to work in the countryside (or on vineyards)? Gulags for those caught drinking Pinot? Perhaps a winedrinkers version of "The Little Red Book"?

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.


    There's an occasional drink, like a brandy/wine (which is not what this article is about) then there are people, like my mum did, who drink 2/3 bottles of gin/vodka a day on 2-3 week benders.
    I hate to think of others in a situation like this, the minimum unit pricing wont alleviate the problem. We need a grand scale overhaul..and fast before many kids are lost in the system

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    The laws we already have need to be enforced, the authorities whose remit it is to look after children, need to do just that. The problem is no one is being punished, simply given chance after chance and the children are suffering because of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    A logical well thought out conclusion that drink does as much damage (if not more) than illegal drugs. So no doubt will be dismissed by the Daily Mail readership and those of similar closed mindsets out of hand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I think much of the problem with drink is that behind closed doors early evening -it's acceptable. Even a health visitor calling in on someone may not raise an eyebrow at a 'civilsed' glass of red. The 'wine o'clock' mentality prevails amongst many middle class parents. I think that the media should play a role by almost 'shaming' people into stopping, re- educating the middle class to drink less

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    11. Perhaps government should give serious consdieration to becoming the parent?

    9. "enforced "AUSTERITY" What austerity. Govt is spending more money now than ever. Currnet deficit is just under £1.1 trl rising to £1.5 trl by 2015. Doesn't sound much like pinchign pockets to me.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Help kids by enforcing tough laws and properly punish people who abuse their children while drunk. !!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    11. shortandsweetish -
    yeah, the situation will not change easily, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. the worst thing to do is give up, and if you give up you are sentancing thousands of children to have to live with abusive families.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    A problem I can forsee if this comes into effect is when the older children/young teens going through a rebellious phase decide their mum or dad is a raging alcoholic and so tries to "run away" by discrediting their parent, just because dad likes a brandy before bed or they always have a glass of wine with dinner. It will be very difficult to monitor and assess where the problems lay.


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