Around 2.5 million children in England live with parents who have problems with alcohol, MPs have claimed.
A newly published report found that such children were “suffering in silence” because no councils in England offer specific help to those who have problem-drinking parents. In fact, a third of councils are cutting support for the drug and alcohol addiction programmes they do have. Only three local authorities are currently increasing the amount of money available for such services.
The report was published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Children of Alcoholics, which includes both MPs and peers from all political parties.
On top of the 2.5 million children whose parents were “hazardous drinkers”, the group also identified 705,000 children who lived with a “dependent drinker”. Alcohol-related disorders were responsible for around one million hospital admissions last year at an estimated cost to the NHS of £3.5 billion, according to the report.
This week, group chair Liam Byrne announced the Break The Silence to Break The Cycle campaign in order to combat these issues. He said that millions of children were “being left to suffer alone” because of a lack of help. This situation is “quite simply a national scandal and things have got to change”, he insisted.
The group called for the government to take “some simple, big steps” in order to make sure every child of a problem drinker can access appropriate help. Proposed steps included an increased investment in “crucial helplines” such as the one run by the National Association of Children of Alcoholics.
They also stressed the need for “a public information campaign aimed at parents so they know the damage they’re doing their kids”.
In 2014, the Children’s Commissioner for England said that not enough was being done to protect children affected by their parents’ drinking habits.