Alcohol is damaging the lives of hundreds of thousands of families throughout the UK. The government estimates that up to 1.3 million children have parents with alcohol problems. This can be a source of misery for children and other relatives affected, says a new paper by the national agency, Alcohol Concern. The consequences from alcohol problems for families
- Poorer parenting. Parents with alcohol problems may become
increasingly focused on drink, and as result may become less loving, caring, nurturing, consistent or predictable.
- Marital breakdown. Marriages affected by alcohol problems
are twice as likely to end in divorce.
- Child abuse. Children can experience or witness physical,
verbal and sexual abuse, and neglect. Alcohol plays a part in around a third to a quarter of known cases of child abuse.
Research carried out by Alcohol Concern reveals major gaps in the provision of services aimed at helping families work through alcohol-related problems.
Though the Every Child Matters agenda denotes a Government commitment to the safeguarding and promotion of children's welfare, the negative impact of alcohol on families is often overlooked. Additionally, alcohol treatment services have been found to often focus only on the problem drinker and not children.
The new position paper, entitled Alcohol and the Family calls for greater attention to be paid to those children affected by parental alcohol misuse.
In essence, it advocates a 'whole family' approach including programmes aimed not only at helping affected children build resilience, but also improving the parenting skills of parents whose drinking may have gotten in the way of putting their children's needs first.
Pat Ridpath, speaking from the Camden Family Alcohol Service, says:
"There is a shortage of family services which can help children and families overcome the impact of adult drinking. Adult alcohol services are not able to meet the needs of the wider family-especially children. Many of the families using our service have said they feel they have benefited from the focus on family strengths and values."
Don Shenker, Alcohol Concern's Director of Policy and Services added:
"Misusing alcohol isn't just about the individual concerned. It can often have major implications for the well being of those close to the problem drinker. What we'd like to see is a much more joined up approach on the ground. Primary Care Trusts and local authorities have a responsibility to pool expertise and resources in order to identify instances of harm as quickly as possible, and move in to provide appropriate support for the whole family."
Copies of Alcohol and the Family are available from the Alcohol Concern press office by calling 0207 395 4000.
- Notes to editors
Alcohol Concern is the national agency working to reduce
alcohol related harm in society. We work to reduce the incidence and costs of alcohol-related harm and to increase the range and quality of alcohol services available to problem drinkers and their families.
- In addition to the direct impact on children, heavy drinking
is also strongly correlated with conflicts and disputes. Alcohol is estimated to be present in at least a third of all violent domestic incidents.
- Alcohol Concern has developed resources and training to
support professionals in the health, education and social sectors working with problem drinking parents and/or their children. These resources are available at www.alcoholandfamilies.org.uk <http://www.alcoholandfamilies.org.uk>.
- The Family Alcohol Service in Camden is a joint NSPCC/ARP
service offering a multidisciplinary approach to working with families as a whole as well as the adult drinker.