21 May 2019

The Children’s Society, a charity that works with the country’s most vulnerable children and young people, is launching a new national initiative today (21 May) to help children affected by parental alcohol misuse.

CAPE (Children of Alcoholic Parents Engagement) is a new learning programme which provides free online resources and toolkits as well as workshops and training to frontline professionals who work with young people. It will support NHS staff, social workers, police, youth, school and voluntary workers to increase their awareness and understanding of children who may be affected by parental alcohol misuse and help them to identify those that are at risk. 

In the UK 2.6 million children are living with parents who are drinking hazardously*  and children who see their parents drunk are more than twice as likely to get drunk themselves**. Last year the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced new measures to give children living with alcoholic parents fast access to support and advice and CAPE is one of the projects funded under these plans.

The Children’s Society has built CAPE on the previous work of its Stars National Initiative that focused on alcohol harm and engagement and ran up until 2018.  As part of the new CAPE platform The Children’s Society worked closely with a group of young people who live with alcohol dependent parents to inform the work of the programme and make a powerful animation video based on their experiences.

Nerys Anthony, Director of National Operations and Major Programmes for The Children’s Society, said: “Having a parent or carer who is dependent on alcohol can be extremely distressing and isolating for a young person and have a huge impact on their welfare and wellbeing.

“Our new CAPE programme is designed to give anyone who works directly with a young person the expert tools and knowledge they need to support them, so that these vulnerable young people are recognised and receive the support they need”.

The Children’s Society will be launching CAPE at a high-profile event in London on 21 May with speakers including Rt Hon Jonathan Ashworth MP and Associate Editor for The Telegraph, Camilla Tominey who has written many articles about her mother’s own alcohol misuse.

Camilla Tominey said “I had one alcoholic parent when I was growing up but some children have both parents addicted to alcohol and it can really affect all aspects of your life.

“This issue needs to be talked about more and any guidance for professionals who work with children and young people should be welcomed so that children who live with family alcohol misuse get the support they truly deserve.” 

From the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health Minister, Seema Kennedy said:

“It can be incredibly damaging for a young person to grow up with an alcoholic parent, but sadly this is the reality for 200,000 children across the country. For many of them asking for help might be too hard, which is why it’s vital that frontline staff such as NHS or school workers know the signs to look out for when a child might be at risk.

“I’m delighted to fund this work which will equip staff with the tools and information they need so that children receive the best possible support as soon as possible. Strengthened by our other projects to support children of alcoholic parents in communities, it will help make sure we’re doing everything we can to help vulnerable children in these desperately hard circumstances.”


Media enquiries

For more information, please call The Children’s Society’s Media team on 020 7841 4422 or email media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editor

  • CAPE is a learning programme for professionals working with young people and has three strands: 1. Microsite that provides all professionals in England with access to information, training, best practice tools and resources. 2. Awareness Raising Workshops – these will be piloted first across four Public Health regions including South Tees, Blackpool, Cheshire East and Essex.  3. Training and accredited courses – This is a professional development offer and will be trailed across the four Public Health areas. 4. Develop bespoke tools - We will develop, collate and promote a range of tools. Building on those designed as part of our delivery services and using local engagement, learning from the pilots, access to research and feedback from practitioners to refine these.
  • To improve awareness on our reach and audience insight the microsite https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/cape  has a mandatory question on the user’s profession so we know we’re reaching the correct target audiences.
  • This initiative builds on the previous work and content created by the Stars National Initiative run by The Children’s Society (which ended in 2018) focusing on alcohol harm and engagement with key audiences. The overarching goal is to change the way frontline professionals, commissioners and policy leads support and champion the welfare and wellbeing of children and young people affected by alcohol-dependent parents.
  • *Findings from 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.
  • **Findings from Joseph Rowntree Foundation report 2011 https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/young-people-alcohol-and-influences
  • The Children’s Society is a national charity that works with the most vulnerable children and young people in Britain today. We listen. We support. We act. Because no child should feel alone.