Social services have revealed that thousands of North East households are misusing drugs and alcohol. Many were already severely abusing substances before the coronavirus lockdown was imposed, and experts warn that these figures are set to worsen due to the continuing restrictions.
Between 2018 and 2019, a total of 26,600 referrals were made to social care services across the region, which required further assessment. Data for these household assessments has shown how many times a so-called ‘concerning factor’ (such as drugs or alcohol misuse, neglect or mental health) was raised across the region’s cases.
The figures, reported in the Hartlepool mail, reveal that:
- Alcohol misuse was identified at the end of 5920 assessments, accounting for 22% of cases.
- Drug misuse was identified at the end of 6880 assessments, accounting for 25% of cases.
- Other concerning factors included domestic violence (13,550 times), mental health (13,580 times), neglect (5620 times) and physical abuse (3800 times).
In Hartlepool there were 1137 referral episodes requiring assessment in 2018–19 of which 210 were alcohol abuse and 367 were drug abuse. In Durham there were 5374 referral episodes requiring assessment in 2018–19 of which 842 were alcohol abuse and 931 were drug abuse.
Help is still available
The UK Addiction Treatment Group (UKAT) has seen an increase in the number of people using its 24/7 online chat tool, which supports people who are struggling with life at home or turning to alcohol and drug misuse. They warn that these worrying numbers in the North East will more than likely ‘tip off the scale in the next report’ given the current coronavirus crisis lockdown.
Nuno Albuquerque, Group Treatment Lead at UKAT, said it was important to remember that these aren’t just numbers: they’re children, parents and carers whose situation last year was so concerning it was passed to social services to explore and support.
“Our immediate concern now is how much worse their situations may have become since the Covid-19 lockdown was enforced”, he said. “Those who were living with domestic violence, neglect, physical abuse and drug and alcohol abuse now have nowhere to go, nowhere to escape to.”
Mr Albuquerque said that UKAT would expect to see the number of referrals into social care and support services rise during this time, particularly for alcohol misuse. However, he urged everyone living across the North East to ask for help if they needed it.
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