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Children must be protected from parents' problem drinking – Children’s Commissioner

New study identifies steps to be taken by health and social services

Commissioned by the Office of the Children's Commissioner from The Children's Society, the report, "I think you need someone to show you what help there is,": Parental alcohol misuse – uncovering and responding to children's needs at a local level looks at ways of estimating the number of children affected by parental alcohol misuse and at the help available to them. The report is based on research with children and young people, alcohol misusing parents and professionals who work with them in three areas of England. It finds that local areas are committed to addressing alcohol misuse but that the focus on the effect on children of parental drinking still needs much work. Some local services for adults with alcohol problems and staff in children's services, may fail to adequately identify children's needs and assist them in getting help or protection. It also finds that local services do not all work together effectively to measure and address the impact on children of parental alcohol misuse.

The study identifies the steps service providers and co-ordinating bodies need to take, including health and social care services, to address children's safety and diminish the impact of problem drinking on children. These include the need to consistently share information across services and to develop joint approaches to commissioning and effective local strategies which involve all agencies. Those working with adults should also receive training to help them talk to parents who misuse alcohol about the impact their drinking may be having on their children and all those working with children and families need training to assist them in recognising the difficulties children may be experiencing so that they can get help.

The report follows the publication of Silent Voices by the Office of the Children's Commissioner in 2012 which reported that nearly one in three (30%) of children live with at least one parent who is a binge drinker and a fifth (22%) live with a hazardous drinker. It recommends Health and Wellbeing Boards and Local Children's Safeguarding Boards work together closely to identify and support children in families where there is alcohol misuse.