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 71.

    @55 Mike - it isn't social services failing the children. It is THE PARENTS who are failing their children.

    Social services picking up the pieces while they are already over-burdened.

    You have exams all through life, school, driving, professional - anyone with the physical equipment can breed as they please.
    Doesn't mean they will be a good (or bad) parent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    So yet again the minority are the problem, and as opposed to foucssed targetting of this problem group there is a proposed widespread demonisation of all people who do drink; be it alcoholism or people who take a week to finish 75cl of wine. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    17.Headcheese "the media should play a role by almost 'shaming' people into stopping"
    Yeah, because the media's utter preoccupation with fat people over the last decade, and the resultant climate of hostility and stigma, have been so overwhelmingly successful in eliminating 'obesity'. Shame is a blunt tool of social control & in most cases only compounds and complicates the underlying issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Maybe the government should think twice about encouraging ppl in similar background to have kids, instead of offering them child benefit?
    If having a kid will impact their booze £, I'm sure they'd think twice.

    If a working family experience such problem, not much you can do; dad/mom wants a drink, no one can stop them if they really want to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Firstly we need to remember that the majority in this country DO drink responsibly. And then consider the appalling outcomes for kids removed from the home, which mean it should only EVER be used as a last resort. The current fixation on using social services to 'punish' fat people, drinkers & others of whom 'we' disapprove could easily end up doing even more damage to kids who'd otherwise be OK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    NACOA posted on FB - - "Thanks to our super volunteer Nicky for sharing her experiences on Daybreak this morning - you can watch again online and Nicky is about 14mins into the programme. Well done for speaking out about the problem, even as an adult this is a very brave thing to do."

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    ‘The problem is serious & moderate drinkers will never understand the devastation alcoholism causes’
    On the contrary, I too am a product of a family affected by alcoholism, but I understand WHY there is an alcohol problem in this country.
    It terrifies me that most people here think the solution is to remove the child from their family rather than giving structured support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Why is Maggie Atkinson not interested in punishing alcoholics who inflict harm on their families when you would 'punish' users of 'illegal drugs'. The drug of choice should be irrelevant. People should accept that it is irresponsible to consume alcohol or drugs whilst looking after a child just as it is to drive or go to work under the influence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Lucky we're not living in France - they'd have to round up the whole population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    The problem is serious & moderate drinkers will never understand the devastation alcoholism causes not just on the family but the whole of society... ignorance & plain prejudice. Children grow up to be adults - if they don't know better they cannot do better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Anyone here actually visited a post surgery liver transplant ward?

    I have. It was harrowing.

    Now there's a picture to put on the side of a bottle or can, a 28 yr old who looks 70, laying in a bed hoping his new liver will be accepted by his ravaged body, but far too ill to even speak to family. And recovery hasn't even begun at that point

    Believe me, you don't want this memory in your head

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Surprise surprise, the anti alcohol has found another anti alcohol story. Next there will be screams for quadrupling of the tax on alcohol.
    Let us be clear, it is really a VERY small number of people who have a problem, a smaller number that die. Most youngsters (even me) drank and then when they are older rarely touch it as you can no longer get out or afford it. This is hysteria of the worst

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Parents need educating on the damage caused by children seeing parents drink. They're more likely to drink heavily just because of their upbringing

    Parents are condemning their kids to need the same crutches that they use, and so it goes on, ad infinitum...

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    I see more snoops, more watchdogs. We will soon solve the unemployment problem at this rate; everyone snooping and reporting, all for the good. Everyone wants to help the vulnerable

  • Comment number 57.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    I have absolute agreement with tackling genuine alcohol problem parents, but am I alone in suspecting the definition of hazardous is going to be 14 or 21 units a week. Raising your statistical risk of ilnesss over you whole life is not the same same thing and completely trivailises a serious problem. And price/supply control? cheap booze from the shops or from the white bootleggers van you choose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    So basically social services are failing these kids?
    I thought they were told to get cracking after the baby 'P'.
    There are mechanisms already in place to protect kids from all forms of poor parenting; not just drinking; why aren't these working?

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.


    I find a mirror is always a good starting point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Shamed for having a 'civilised' glass of red early evening? You will only make me feel ashamed if I in any way value your opinion. And I don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.


    A perfect summary.

    If people had lives worth living, there would be no need to find a temporary escape from their existances.


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