Government must ‘create a national strategy’ for children of alcoholics

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The government needs to develop a national strategy for the children of alcoholics alongside properly funded local support, says the first ever manifesto for the group.

Launched at the House of Commons by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Children of Alcoholics, A manifesto for change sets out a ten point plan to help the estimated 2.5m children affected. The document calls for improved education and training for professionals along with better awareness raising for children themselves, and more support for families with alcohol issues. It also wants to see national alcohol policy revised to focus on price and availability, as well as curbs on promotion, particularly to children.

Children living with heavy-drinking parents are Britain’s ‘innocent victims of drink’, says the document, which was written by those with first-hand experience of the issues along with policymakers and representatives of charities and health organisations.

We need to stop the cycle of alcoholism repeating through the generations, says the document.

Children of alcoholics are twice as likely as other children to have problems at school, five times more likely to develop eating disorders and three times more likely to consider suicide. ‘Worst of all, children of alcoholics are also four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves – there is a cycle of alcoholism cascading down the generations,’ it says. ‘We have to break the cycle of this terrible disease – and that starts by breaking the silence around Britain’s biggest secret scandal.’

Chaired by Liam Byrne MP, the APPG was launched last year to ‘make a difference’ (DDN, April 2016, page 7). Its research has found a ‘patchwork of poorly funded and disjointed support services at the local level’ and no local authority with a specific strategy to support children of alcoholics.

Those children affected ‘fall through the gaps’ between the adult and children’s social care systems and the public health system, says the document.

‘Children of alcoholics are currently a forgotten part of the government’s stance on alcohol,’ it states. ‘A lead from central government is essential if alcohol harm in the country is to be tackled effectively. This is essential since local government – the level at which almost all treatment and support services for alcohol harm are provided – is at the whim of central government when it comes to funding these services.’

Meanwhile, PHE has published its latest Local Alcohol Profiles for England (LAPE). Among the findings are a 2 per cent increase in mortality from chronic liver disease – 1.5 per cent among men and 2.8 per cent among women. Overall, however, gender and inequality gaps ‘persist across the updated measures showing that disproportionate levels of harm are impacting on men and the most deprived’.

APPG on children of alcoholics: a manifesto for change at liambyrne.co.uk

Local alcohol profiles for England: Feb 2017 at www.gov.uk