The families of people who use substances are unforgivably overlooked when it comes to policy and service provision. With an election looming, Robert Stebbings gives Adfam’s own five-point manifesto. Read the full article in DDN Magazine.
We know from our latest research with YouGov that almost one in three adults in the UK have been negatively affected by the substance use of someone they know. That’s a staggering figure, especially when we consider the huge range of harms we know can result – mental health problems, violence/abuse, relationship difficulties, financial strain, isolation and stigma.
That’s why Adfam is launching our new manifesto, setting out five key points we’d like to see the government address to diminish these harms and provide families with the opportunity to thrive. We know they’re ambitious, and rightly so. These families are sorely neglected in policy and provision – a significant proportion of the population who are hidden in plain sight and often suffer in silence.
1. Funding must be made available for every local authority to provide dedicated support services for those affected by a loved one’s substance misuse.
Current provision is very patchy. Effective support in every local area will enable families to improve their health and wellbeing, stay in work, participate in society and build and maintain positive relationships.
2. Family members who assume roles as kinship carers should be supported financially to ensure they are able to fulfil their responsibilities without fear of entering poverty.
Research by Grandparents Plus has found that 50 per cent of children living in kinship care do so due to parental substance misuse. Kinship carers must be given the same rights and benefits as foster carers to provide the financial support they desperately need and to safeguard the emotional wellbeing of them and the children in their care.
3. Money should be ring-fenced for children’s social care services to identify and provide ongoing support for children affected by parental substance misuse to ensure they are given opportunities to recover and thrive.
These children can experience neglect and physical and emotional abuse, which often leads to more serious mental health problems and other negative outcomes in the future. More funding will enable children’s social care services to better identify these children and give them the support they need.
4. Central government money should be made available to start a national conversation to improve public understanding on the impact of substance misuse on others and tackle stigmatising attitudes.
Our research shows that 2m adults in the UK have experienced stigma or judgment as a result of a loved one’s substance use and this can be a barrier to them speaking out or seeking support. A national conversation is needed to change the public’s understanding and recognition of this issue.
5. Government should launch a public enquiry into how substance misuse contributes towards mental ill health and poverty in families.
Around 5.7m adults in the UK have experienced mental health problems such as anxiety or depression and 2.8m have experienced financial impacts such as debt as a result of someone else’s substance use. The government needs to take action to understand how substance use contributes to a wide range of harms to families.
Over the coming months we’ll be taking our manifesto to parliamentarians, seeking their support in turning these recommendations into practice.