For some, lockdown has provided an opportunity for reconnection, learning a new skill or finally getting around to DIY jobs, but for others it has been a troubled and in some cases dangerous time, as fragile family tensions have been pushed to breaking point requiring intervention from already stretched social services.

Earlier this year, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) said they had seen a surge in calls from young people stuck in toxic and abusive households during lockdown.

It’s no coincidence then that during the same period alcohol and drug consumption also increased. At the time, Dr Emily Finch, an NHS addiction psychiatrist and vice-chair of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “alcohol services across the UK are seeing that some of their clients are drinking much more and becoming even more chaotic in their lifestyles”. In line with that, Alcohol Change UK reported that 28 per cent of people who had ever drunk alcohol admitted to drinking more during the lockdown period.

Help for vulnerable families

The stats have prompted the government to launch a new resource for families, designed to help them reduce parental conflict and alcohol dependency, as part of its Troubled Families Program.

The resource includes, ‘different strategies for authorities supporting families who need help to reduce parental conflict and alcohol dependency, in response, the government says, to ‘rising levels of parental conflict that local authority teams have been responding to’.

To many, these problems are unthinkable. Home is supposed to be our ultimate place of respite and safety, but it’s not the case for many vulnerable and struggling families, who are often reliant on outside support, such as school meals to feed their children, but in the absence of that support and the conflict and stress that can come with spending more time together it can be difficult to keep a lid on big emotions.

Turning to alcohol and drugs can seem like the best option when things get tough, but as Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, says: “If we are to emerge from this pandemic as a healthier society, we must put together long-term prevention strategies to empower people across the UK to make healthy lifestyle choices and to ensure that those who are drinking at dangerous levels get the support they need.”

The government’s Reducing Parental Conflict and Alcohol Dependency program was launched on 17 August 2020.

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