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Coming together at Christmas

Christmas isn’t always what the adverts would have you believe. For those with parents struggling with drug or alcohol use, the season can be challenging. To give these young people a break, our substance use service in Essex puts on a Christmas dinner, just for them. It gives them a chance to meet other children in a similar situation, forget about their worries for a day and enjoy a little festive magic.


Being there

two women in Christmas jumpers standing around Christmas inflatables

Caring at Christmas

Our Community Hidden Harm Awareness Team (CHHAT) helps children understand that they are not to blame for their parents' drinking. We give them a space to think and be heard.

By removing them from the carer role they have adopted, we enable them to focus that same care on themselves.

Emma has been running the Christmas dinner for the last five years. It's so important in giving young people hope and showing them there are people out there who care.


'Our Christmas day brings the young people together and helps them to understand that they are not alone. They get to celebrate a Christmas day free of any caring responsibilities.'

They get one day where they can just be children.

two people pulling a cracker

I’m going to be bursting with happiness I’m going to be bursting with happiness

– young person from CHHAT

Good company

Good company

Christmas is about coming together. But when the person you live with is struggling with addiction, it can be hard to connect.

‘Young people have had so much disruption this year, and these young people have had to cope with so much on their own.’

‘Bringing these young people together to help them to understand that they are not alone, and to be able to give them a special day, is just priceless.’

I look forward to chatting to new people I look forward to chatting to new people

– young person from CHHAT

Plenty of food

Christmas dinner on plate

Plenty of food

What would Christmas be without food? From turkey to parsnips and peas, fluffy roast potatoes and of course lots of gravy. The team make sure that there’s plenty to go around. But there are more than just leftovers to take home at the end of the day.

‘The Christmas dinner is probably my favourite part. Seeing young people who’ve never met each other before, sitting together, enjoying cracker jokes, laughing, eating.’

The dinner

It feels just like a big family. Seeing their faces light up is just magical.

The greatest gift of all

The greatest gift of all

Some gifts go beyond the tinsel and treats. The day would not be possible without the generosity of local businesses, churches, and the public.

‘I’m always astounded at how much people want to give and how good and kind people are.’

‘Christmas isn’t always a time that young people look forward to.’

‘It’s important that we hear from young people, what their own experience of Christmas is and what it means to them.’

Christmas tree with presents around

We can help

Thank you for today, I didn’t want it to end.