Children at risk: Cuts to alcohol addiction treatment coincide with increase in parents’ heavy drinking | UK News

Millions of children are at risk due to an increase in heavy drinking among adults, combined with cuts to alcohol addiction services.

An estimated 2.6 million children in the UK are living with at least one parent who drinks too much.

An all-party parliamentary group on children of alcoholics found that heavy drinking has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the UK’s alcohol death rate rising by a record 19% in 2020 compared with 2019.

The group’s Freedom of Information survey also found that those households who had been buying the most alcohol before lockdown increased their alcohol purchases significantly while confined to their homes.

But, despite this, 44% of council areas have seen referrals to addiction treatment falling – one council (Solihull) said referrals had fallen by nearly 50%.

Some 65% of drug and alcohol treatment services saw their local authority funding cut or left the same between 2019 and 2021, and 57% of councils do not have a strategy to support the children of alcoholics.

Almost three in 10 councils said they would either cut or hold flat their budget for drug and alcohol treatment services into 2022.

Problem drinking ‘went through the roof’ in lockdown

The APPG’s chair, Liam Byrne, who lost his father to a lifelong struggle with alcohol in 2015, told Sky News: “Problem drinking went through the roof during lockdown and that was just at the moment when support for children of alcoholics in those families was cut back.

“That’s a perfect storm that is hitting up to one in five children.

“So we don’t want those children to suffer in silence.

“We want them to know that their mum and dad’s drinking is not their fault.”

Lizzie Fletcher grew up with an alcoholic father, an experience she described as “lonely, scary and unpredictable”.

She told Sky News: “It was something that no child should have to go through – I felt different to everyone, I felt no one understood me, I felt like I was alone in what I was experiencing.

“It’s not easy – you don’t really know what you’re going to get from your parent.

“One day they can be very happy and strong for you, and the next day they can be really depressed, anxious, drinking a lot.”

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Schools had provided some refuge for children with alcoholic parents. But the pandemic changed this. File pic

School was an escape

School was an escape for Ms Fletcher but, of course, the pandemic took that refuge away from today’s children, leaving them to face their parents’ alcoholism.

Josh Connelly, an ambassador at The National Association for Children of Alcoholics, told Sky News: “These children are six times more likely to experience domestic violence, they’re three times more likely to consider suicide, two or three times more likely to go on to have addiction problems themselves.

“So when we look at the scale of what happens to these children as they go into their adulthood, we need to act while they’re still young to give them the help and support that they need and deserve.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “Protecting children with alcoholic parents is a priority for this government and over the next three years we’re allocating £780m to local authorities for substance misuse treatment and recovery services.

“As part of a £7.2m package, we also funded the National Association for Children of Alcoholic’s helpline expansion, so more kids have rapid access to support and advice.

“We remain committed to ensuring all children in this difficult position are supported and help is available for their parents struggling with alcohol addiction.”

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