Children’s charity reports huge increase in referrals due to drink/drugs misuse by parents

Cases involving more than 15,000 children were referred to the relevant authorities. Posed by models

Cases involving more than 15,000 children were referred to the relevant authorities. Posed by models. Photo: Tom Hull - Credit: Tom Hull

Public concern about parental substance misuse has led to the NSPCC seeing a 19pc increase in referrals to police or local authorities in the East of England.

Last year the children's charity made 1,038 referrals to authorities after concerns about parents drinking to excess or taking drugs were raised by members of the public contacting its helpline – up from 869 in 2015/16.

Nationally, the NSPCC helpline received a record 10,207 contacts about parental substance abuse and cases involving more than 15,000 children were referred to the relevant authorities.

The majority of contacts were people worried that a parent was drinking too much alcohol which in turn was affecting their ability to provide a safe and supportive environment for their children.

In many of these cases other concerns such as neglect and physical and emotional abuse against the child, parental domestic abuse and parental mental health issues were also raised.

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One member of the public called the helpline and said: 'I'm really worried for the safety of a child living with his parents.

'There is always heavy smoke lingering around the family home and I regularly see the parents intoxicated with alcohol and drugs. Sometimes I can hear them shouting and screaming profanities at each other whilst the child is in the home.'

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More than a third of the children referred to police or authorities across the UK were aged between one and five, with a further 581 being less than a year old, including unborn children.

The NSPCC delivers Parents Under Pressure, a home-based programme, to help parents, and John Cameron, head of helplines at the NSPCC, said: 'Every child should be able to grow up in a home where they feel safe and supported. The sad fact is that many young people are being deprived of this simple right due to one or both of their parents abusing drink and drugs. It is vitally important for the wellbeing of the whole family that adults who are misusing any substance seek help from effective programmes such as Parents Under Pressure.'

The NSPCC's helpline is available on 0808 800 5000 or via

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