26 APR 2018

Supporting the children of alcoholic parents

Kent Messenger Column - 26-04-18

Our political system usually operates in an adversarial and combative arena, where debate and division are the order of the day. Sometimes, however, the issue in question manages to transcend party politicking in an outbreak of collegiate collaboration and co-operation; how refreshing. And so it was, this week, when the Health Secretary announced new measures to support children of alcoholic parents in a package that has been borne of a cross-party initiative.

Research has shown that that children of alcoholics are twice as likely to have problems at school, three times as likely to consider suicide and five times more likely to develop an eating disorder. The problem is growing persistently alongside the statistics for alcohol related medical issues: In 2009-10 over 23,000 people were admitted to Kent and Medway hospitals with alcohol related conditions. In 2016-17 the figure had swollen by a third to over 31,000 cases.

The new package announced this week includes; rapid access to mental health services and support; outreach programmes to get more parents successfully through addiction treatment; and early intervention programmes to reduce the numbers of children needing to go into care. It is backed by £6 million of additional money and is designed to help an estimated 200,000 children.

One of the big challenges in this situation is identifying the vulnerable children in the first place. If their parents are not getting any help from the NHS it is difficult to know the location of children who may need help. Part of the programme is therefore designed to tackle that through a helpline, a bit like Childline, where children can contact anonymously. That will hopefully create a portal through which needs can be assessed and support services provided much earlier.

I await details of the new helpline but in the meantime Kent County Council's alcohol and drug support services can be accessed via Kent County Council's website.

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