Welcome to CAPE, a hub of resources and information to help your work with children who are affected by parental alcohol misuse

A practitioner working with a child affected by parental alcohol misuse

The Children's Society has been supporting children and young people affected by parental alcohol and drug misuse for many years, in a range of services across the country. Our aim is to raise the profile of children and young people who live in families affected by alcohol and drug use. We join with others to shine a light on these hidden lives, enable their voices to be heard and work together to bring about change.

Parental alcohol use

Public Health England estimates that 200,000 children in England live with an alcohol dependent parent.  Alcohol dependent means they are likely to experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms and have lost control of their drinking.  This will compromise their parenting capacity and the environment in which children live and grow up.
Substantially more children – 2.6 million – in the UK are living with parents who are drinking to hazardous levels, where they are regularly drinking above the recommended drinking guidelines. Recent research states that one in three children report negative outcomes from parents’ drinking.  It suggests that children experience negative outcomes as a result of their parents’ alcohol use, even amongst moderate drinkers. In a survey of almost 1,000 UK parents and their children aged 10-17, more than a third (35%) of children reported at least one adverse consequence as a result of their parents’ drinking.
The impact upon children has been widely documented and includes their own physical and psychological health, family life, relationships and education. It is important to understand and address the impact of alcohol harm not only on the individual drinker but to those around them especially children.


Supporting children and young people

We currently deliver the following specialist services for children, young people and families affected by parental alcohol and drug misuse:

  • CHHAT – Our Community Hidden Harm Awareness Team (CHHAT) works with young carers across Essex aged 8-19 years who are affected by parental substance use (also known as Hidden Harm). 
  • Include – Our young carer service is home to the national young carers initiative, supporting children and young people who care for parents, siblings or others who suffer from chronic illness or disability, including alcohol or drug use.

Policy and practice

In 2004, following the publication of Hidden Harm (Home Office 2003), we developed Stars National Initiative, a nationally recognised hub of information, resources and best practice on supporting children affected by parental substance misuse. We have consolidated our learning and CAPE will focus upon alcohol harm.

We undertake research, publish reports and produce bespoke resources on the impact of parental alcohol and drug misuse upon children.

Research and reports

I think you need someone to show you what help there is (2014) produced with Office of the Children's Commissioner promotes best practice on how local areas can discover and respond to the needs of children affected by parental alcohol misuse.

Swept under the carpet makes recommendations aimed at reducing the service gap, including the training of social workers, improvement in joint working arrangements - specifically with Adult services - and the need for bespoke resources for young people, professionals and the parents involved. 


Our work with children and young people has helped us create a number of booklets. These can help you start discussions about the impact of a parent's drinking. The resources below include activities, ways to talk about treatment and recovery and how young people feel growing up in a home affected by alcohol misuse.


Manifesto for Children of Alcoholics: We gave evidence at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Children of Alcoholics. The APPG was set up to represent and give a voice to the one in five British children living with a parent who drinks too much. In February 2017, the APPG launched the first ever Manifesto for Children of Alcoholics, which was the catalyst for the new funding.

The Children’s Society is a member of The Alcohol and Families Alliance, an alliance of organisations from across the voluntary and statutory sectors united in reducing the harms experienced by families as a result of alcohol.

Contact us

You can get in touch with us by email: cape@childrenssociety.org.uk