New Parliamentary report reveals ‘horrific’ impact of parental alcohol misuse
37% of child deaths and serious injuries through neglect linked to parental drinking
A new parliamentary report lays bare the reality of damage caused by parents who drink too much. The report, published by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology following a request by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children of Alcoholics, confirms that 37% of child deaths and serious injuries through neglect are linked to parental drinking.
The report comes as a new Freedom of Information investigation reveals that:
- Over half of councils still do not have a strategy to help children of alcoholics (COAs).
- Almost all councils are cutting their budgets for alcohol and drug treatment services.
- In more than half of councils, referrals to alcohol treatment services are falling.
The parliamentary report Parental Alcohol Misuse and Children is published by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), for International Children of Alcoholics Week (11th-17th February 2018). The decision to write this report was made by the Board of POST, following a request by the APPG for Children of Alcoholics.
The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology’s remit is to provide Parliament with objective scientific analysis and to support uptake of research evidence by Parliament.
The report finds that:
- Between 2011-14, ‘Parental Alcohol Misuse’ (PAM) was implicated in 37% of cases involving the death or serious injury of a child through neglect or abuse in England.
- 18% of children reported feeling embarrassed by seeing their parent drunk, while 15% reported their bedtime routine had been disrupted as a result of their parents’ drinking.
- 61% of care applications in England involved misuse of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Children living with alcohol-dependent parents report feeling socially isolated, and are reluctant to seek help due to feelings of stigma, shame and guilt about not wanting to betray parents: Calls to helplines reveal their chronic worry and fear.
- Children may have to take on caring responsibilities for the affected parent or younger siblings which can negatively impact school attendance and homework.
- ‘Parental Alcohol Misuse’ leads to inconsistent and unpredictable parenting.
The report also notes that reviews of research into parental alcohol misuse identified increased risks of obesity, eating disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among children, as well as of hospital admissions and injuries.
Liam Byrne MP, who lost his dad to alcoholism in 2015 and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children of Alcoholics said:
“Millions of parents drink too much and their misuse of alcohol causes horrific problems for their children. Parental Alcohol Misuse scars kids for life and can leads many into a life of drinking too much themselves.
“Our campaign has now won a new commitment from government for a national strategy to stop parental alcohol misuse. This new report shows just why the government must act fast to put an effective plan in place.”
Notes to editors
To interview Liam Byrne MP, please contact Harry Kind at email@example.com or 07980630201.
For case studies, please contact the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) on 0117 924 8005 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOI Investigation Key Findings
1. Over half of Local Authorities still do not have a strategy to help children of alcoholics (COAs).
Over 50% of councils say they do not have a strategy of support for COAs.
Five Local Authorities – Bracknell Forest, Hartlepool Borough Council, Northamptonshire County Council, Reading and Warwickshire County Council – previously had strategies in place in 2015 but now do not.
This is a big improvement on 2015, when three quarters of councils did not have a strategy to support COAs.
2. Almost all Local Authorities have cut their budgets for alcohol and drug treatment services.
Of the 53 Local Authorities that provided data, 92.4% have cut their budgets for drug and alcohol treatment.
The average size of cuts is approximately £198,000 but the size of cuts varies significantly between Local Authorities:
- Wolverhampton has cut its budget by just under £87,000 (1.1%)
- Lancashire has cut its budget by £9.6 million (58.1%)
Nine Local Authorities have actually cut their budgets despite seeing increases in the number of referrals to their alcohol treatment services. Blackburn, Hampshire, Lambeth, Lancashire, Ealing, Newcastle, Norfolk County Council, Peterborough and Rochdale Borough Council saw an average increase in referrals of 430, yet have cut their budgets by an average of £2.1 million.
3. In more than half of Local Authorities, referrals to alcohol treatment services are falling.
In over half of councils, referrals of adults for alcohol addiction problems have fallen on the figures for 2014/2015.
Northamptonshire County Council saw the biggest decrease in referrals, from 2,904 2014/15 to 1,396 referrals in 2016/17 – a decrease of almost half.
POSTnote: Parental Alcohol Misuse and Children
The POSTnote can be found on the POST website here
- Parental alcohol misuse (PAM) refers to a spectrum of problem drinking by those with parental responsibility for children.
- It is unclear how many children across the UK this affects.
- Most studies focus on the effects of parents’ harmful and dependent drinking on children, including educational and behavioural effects and valium impacts on physical and mental health.
- Services for families affected by PAM can be provided by local authorities or charities and vary geographically. It is not clear how many of these services are targeted specifically at children.
- Effective interventions focus on factors known to protect children from the effects of PAM, as well as providing services for the whole family and improving parenting skills.
The POSTnote has been peer-reviewed by 25 different individuals/organisations:
Government (central and local)
- Department for Education
- Department of Communities and Local Government
- Department of Health
- Local Government Association
- Public Health England
- Public Health Wales
- Research Services in the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies
- Scottish Government
Charities and NGOs
- Alcohol Research UK
- Children’s Society
- Institute of Alcohol Studies
- Mentor UK
- Office of the Children’s Commissioner
- Professor Yvonne Kelly, UCL
- Professor Richard Velleman and Lorna Templeton, University of Bath
- Dr Luisa Zuccolo, University of Bristol
- Professor Judith Harwin, University of Lancaster
- Professor Petra Meier, University of Sheffield
- Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist and Director FDAC National Unit, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
- Consultant Psychiatrist, FASD clinic, Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
POST Board Members
- Lord Naren Patel, Chair, Lords Science and Technology Committee
- Professor the Lord Winston
OFFICERS OF THE APPG ON CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS
|Chair & Registered Contact||Liam Byrne||Labour|
|Vice Chair||Fiona Bruce||Conservative|
|Vice Chair||Baroness Hollins||Crossbench|
|Vice Chair||Caroline Flint||Labour|
|Secretary||Mr Gavin Shuker||Labour (Co-op)|
|Treasurer||Earl of Listowel||Crossbench|
The APPG for COA’s Ten Point Plan
Take responsibility for children of alcoholics
- Create a national strategy for COAs
- Properly fund local support for COAs
- Increase availability of support for families battling addiction to alcohol
- Boost education and awareness for children
- Boost education and training for those with a responsibility for children
- Develop a plan to change public attitudes
- Revise the national strategy to tackle alcoholism to focus on price and availability
- Curtail the promotion of alcohol – especially to children
- Take responsibility for reducing rates of alcoholism