Help is at hand for parents who are drinking more in lockdown

Drunk mother with alcoholic drink scolding her little so

The NSPCC has received more than 1,000 calls every month from people concerned that children are being put at risk by a parent or carer’s use of drink or drugs since April 2020 - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Anna Collishaw-Nikodemus, local campaigns manager for the NSPCC, says the charity can help adults dependent on alcohol or drugs

The pandemic and lockdown has presented many families with unprecedented pressures and strains. And, unsurprisingly, some parents have used alcohol or drugs in a bid to help them cope with these difficult circumstances.

Although, it does not necessarily mean that a child will experience abuse if they live in a household where a parent or carer misuses substances, it can make it more difficult for parents to provide safe and consistent care and this can lead to abuse or neglect.

It can also have a serious impact on the child’s emotional well-being.

New figures from the NSPCC show the monthly average number of contacts to our helpline from people worried about parents misusing drink or drugs has increased by 66% since the start of the pandemic.

Since April 1 last year, the helpline has received an average of 1,178 contacts every month from people concerned that children are being put at risk by a parent or carer’s use of drink or drugs – up from an average of 709 in the three months prior to lockdown.

Many of these were so serious they had to be reported to external agencies such as the police or children’s services.

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One caller told our counsellors: “All adults in the house are alcoholics. They’ll start drinking during the daytime and become more drunk as the day goes on.

“When they’re drunk they can be violent towards the children and each other. I’ve seen punch holes in the walls and doors of the house. It’s not a safe environment for kids.”

Parental substance misuse is when a parent or carer misuses alcohol or drugs.

This includes adults who consume harmful amounts of alcohol, are dependent on alcohol, use prescription drugs excessively or are using illegal drugs, any of which impacts their ability to care for a child.

School closures for many and the inability to socialise with friends during the pandemic means children are more immersed in the problems they are facing at home – for some, there is no escape.

Concerns about what might happen if they report parental drug and alcohol misuse could leave young people afraid to seek help, but with the right support, we can help them through a challenging time and signpost to organisations which offer further guidance and advice.

As the number of families affected by substance misuse increases – including many who weren’t previously known to children’s services - it is essential that the government keeps local substance misuse services available throughout the pandemic.

It’s also vital that the government sets out a plan to invest in services to help children and families recover from the distress of the crisis.

The safety of children is everyone’s responsibility, and there are things to look out for to help protect young people from parental substance misuse.

Signs that parents may be struggling with parental substance misuse and need support include a parent visibly being under the influence of alcohol or drugs; aggressive or repeated shouting at home; a child becoming withdrawn or developing behavioural problems and children showing signs of neglect.

The pressures on families right now are unprecedented, and it’s no surprise our helpline is hearing more parents and carers are struggling with substance misuse, but the care and safety of children must always come first.

Our trained professionals can offer advice to make sure everyone in the family receives the support they need.

And, if anyone is concerned about their own drug or alcohol and that it is affecting their family, our helpline can offer them support too.

If you are concerned about a young person, we would always encourage you to phone our helpline on 0808 8005000, email help@nspcc.org.uk or call 999 if a child is in immediate danger. Children are urged to talk to an adult they trust, or contact Childline on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk