24 May 2011

Research shows that around 2.6 million children in the UK are living with parents who are drinking hazardously and 705,000 are living with dependent drinkers. (1)

The Children’s Commissioner for England and The Children’s Society have today published the first booklet of its kind for use by children affected by a parent or carer drinking too much alcohol. It will help them to have frank discussions with teachers, professionals or an adult who they trust when they are worried about a parent or carer and the problems caused by their alcohol consumption. (2)

When an adult is drinking too much, children and young people sometimes feel like they are on their own, that they are to blame or that no-one understands their concerns. Their home life can become volatile and unsafe, adversely affecting their school work and friendships.

'I thought I was all alone.'

The booklet, ‘You are not on your own’, is a free online resource that will help them to discuss what to do and ways to keep them safe from harm.

The text is based on children's comments and children’s views are highlighted in the booklet so that they are sharing their experiences with others in similar circumstances.

'I didn’t realise there were other kids like me – I thought I was all alone.’  Boy, aged 12

'I always thought it was my fault and that I caused all this. I’m a lot older now but I know others will think that their parents don’t love ‘em, or that they don’t mean anything, or that it’s their fault, and it’s not…they’re just tied up in it and it’s part of their lives.’ Young person, aged 18

The Children’s Commissioner and The Children’s Society’s Stars National Initiative developed the booklet with children and young people following a recommendation from Alcohol Concern and The Children’s Society last year. They called on the Government to commission a resource for professionals to use with children affected by alcohol misuse in the family. (3)

A survey of 1,000 adults revealed that eight out of ten agreed that heavy drinking among parents is a serious problem for children in the UK, and 84% agreed that a parent who drinks heavily is as harmful to a child as a parent who takes drugs. (4)

Maggie Atkinson, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said:
'I would like to thank the children and young people for helping us to produce this innovative resource. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child calls on signatory Governments to do all that they can to ensure that children grow up in a safe and healthy environment. Helping to protect children from harm and neglect is a central part of my role. This booklet, which we have developed in collaboration with The Children’s Society, aims to build on our work in this area.'

Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society said:
'We want to ensure that the needs and concerns of children and young people who are exposed to adults who misuse drugs, alcohol and other illegal substances are better understood by parents, practitioners and agencies charged with protecting them. We hope that this booklet will be a widely used resource that will help to improve the lives and wellbeing of children affected by an adult’s drinking.'

The Children’s Society’s Stars National Initiative worked with The Children’s Participation Consultancy to gather the children and young people’s views and design the booklet, Joanna Manning, Programme Manager, said:
'There are significant gaps in the information and resources for children, parents and professionals working with families affected by an adult who is drinking too much alcohol. This booklet is the first of its kind and practitioners have already told us that it is a useful resource. It is intended to help children realise they are not alone and provide them with a safe way to freely discuss their worries and concerns.'

Professionals and practitioners in the field, including teachers at Mellers Primary School in Radford, Nottingham and CRI, Dudley, also helped to pilot the booklet ahead of its publication.


Notes to Editors:

1.    Swept under the carpet: Children affected by parental alcohol misuse – Alcohol Concern, The Children’s Society, 2010 (Manning, V. et. al. (2009) New estimates on the number of children living with substance-misusing parents: Results from UK national household surveys. Journal of Public Health, 9 (1), pp377-389.)

2.    The Children’s Commissioner and The Children’s Society’s booklet: You are not on your own – A booklet to help children and adults to talk about a parent’s drinking, is available as a free online resource at: www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk

3.    Swept under the carpet: Children affected by parental alcohol misuse – Alcohol Concern, The Children’s Society, 2010.

4.    Swept under the carpet: Children affected by parental alcohol misuse – Alcohol Concern, The Children’s Society, 2010. (Nfp Synergy (July 2010) Charity Awareness Monitor. 1,000 GB Adults)

5.    The Children's Commissioner for England was established under The Children Act 2004 to be the independent voice of children and young people and to champion their interests and bring their concerns and views to the national arena. www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk

6.    The Children's Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life. www.childrenssociety.org.uk

7.    The Children's Society’s STARS National Initiative is a 3-year project funded by Comic Relief and the Department of Education. Its overall aim is to promote the rights and needs of children, young people and families affected by the substance misuse of a parent/carer. http://www.starsnationalinitiative.org.uk/showPage.php?file=index.htm

For media enquiries contact:
Denise Malcolm at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner on
Tel: 020 7783 8580. Out of hours: 07920 765 454.
Email: denise.malcolm@childrenscommissioner.gsi.gov.uk

Rafi Cooper at The Children’s Society on
Tel: 0207 841 4422. Mobile: 07810 796 508
Email: Rafi.Cooper@childrenssociety.org.uk