It is well known that the damage caused by alcohol abuse is much more than just physical. However, the scale of parental alcohol abuse and its effect on children is now being made known and is a real cause for concern. According to a new report by The Children’s Society, hundreds of thousands of teenagers in the UK are damaged by their parents’ alcohol abuse.

As part of its 2017 Good Childhood Report [1], the charity surveyed families with children aged between 10 and 17. The estimates showed that among the 700,000 teenagers in this age group, 39% have lived with domestic violence, and 29% have been homeless in the last 5 years. Furthermore, 1.6 million teenagers in the UK have a parent with depression or anxiety, and 1.7 million are living in homes struggling with debt.

The report highlights the depth of the impact that parental alcohol abuse can have on young people’s physical and mental health. The pressure that these children are exposed to can lead some of them to run away from home or to be excluded from school.

“Millions of teenagers in the UK are suffering in silence with problems that would floor an adult. The hundreds of thousands of children whose parent has a drinking problem are sadly just the tip of the iceberg of children in desperate need of support,” said Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society.

Of the families surveyed, 59% of the parents had mental health problems, and 44% had a disability or longstanding illness. Whilst parents turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism, many teenagers (23%) are forced to assume adult responsibilities at home, such as taking care of siblings or nursing parents.

Councillor Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said of the research:

“Councils aim to help struggling families at an early stage, before issues become serious, but demand for child protection support has increased dramatically at the same time as local authority budgets from central government have faced significant cuts. This is forcing many areas to make extremely difficult decisions about how to allocate increasingly scarce resources, and early help services have seen their funding reduced as councils are forced to prioritise urgent help for children at immediate risk of harm.”

According to Mr Watts, public health funds, on which alcohol treatment solutions rely, have been cut by as much as half a billion pounds over the past 5 years.

Shocking new statistics that centre on the scale of the problem in Hull show that nearly 2000 children in the city are deemed at risk of abuse or neglect. This equates to one in every 29 children living in Hull.

The figures from an annual child census reveal that there were 3507 under-17-year-olds judged to be ‘in need’ across the city at the end of March.

Nationally, the number of children in need stood at 389,430 at 31 March 2017. The rates of potential neglect and abuse in Hull are twice as high as the national average, which stands at one for every 58 children.

The data, published by the Department for Education, show that 31% of children in need are aged 10–15, while 25% are aged 5–9 years old and 18% are aged 1–4.

Police forces across England are the main source of referrals for children in need to social care services. In the year ending 31 March 2017, 27.5% of children referred for help were referred by the police. Schools made up 17.7% of referrals, with health services referring almost 15%. Anonymous referrals to social care from members of the public made up 2%.

Common causes for children being ‘in need’ – on top of abuse and neglect – included mental health, learning disabilities and drug and alcohol misuse from those looking after them. As part of Alcohol Awareness Week (13–19th November), Alcohol Concern are highlighting resources about the effects of harmful drinking for families on their website [2].

Continuous alcohol monitoring, also known as sobriety tagging, is one option that can provide social care services and child-protection agencies with the tools to change behaviours in higher-risk alcohol-dependent parents. By wearing an alcohol-detecting bracelet the presence of alcohol in perspiration can be monitored every 30 minutes in real-time. Results are uploaded continuously to show the frequency and pattern of alcohol consumption.

For more information on SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring®, call AlphaBiolabs now on 0333 600 1300 or email info@alphabiolabs.com.

1. https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/the-good-childhood-report-2017
2. https://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/alcohol-and-families-resources