Children whose parents are alcoholic will be offered help under plans announced by the government.
The £6m package of measures is designed to help the estimated 200,000 children in England living with alcohol-dependent parents, offering rapid access to support and advice.
Announcing the measures on Monday, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the consequences of alcohol abuse were “devastating for those in the grip of an addiction, but for too long the children of alcoholic parents have been the silent victims. This is not right, nor fair.
“These measures will ensure thousands of children affected by their parent’s alcohol dependency have access to the support they need and deserve.”
Hunt paid tribute to Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, who had previously spoken of an upbringing in which his father would fall over drunk at the school gates. In an interview with the Guardian in 2016, Ashworth also described how he would return home to a fridge stacked with cheap alcohol and no food.
“Some things matter much more than politics, and I have been moved by my Labour counterpart Jon Ashworth’s bravery in speaking out so honestly about life as the child of an alcoholic,” Hunt said.
The programme will include rapid access to mental health services and support for children and their families where there is a dependent drinker; funding to identify and support at-risk children more quickly and early intervention programmes to reduce the numbers of children needing to go into care.
The government has also appointed Steve Brine as a dedicated minister for children with alcohol-dependent parents.
Of the 200,000 children in England living with alcoholic parents, the NSPCC has reported a 16% rise in calls involving alcohol or drug abuse in recent years. The charity receives one call every hour related to drug or alcohol abuse.
Research shows 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. More than a third of all serious case reviews for children involve a history of parental alcohol abuse.
The Labour MP Liam Byrne, the founder and chair of the cross-party group in parliament for children of alcoholics, welcomed the measures.
‘We know as children of alcoholics that we can’t change things for parents, but we can change things for our country’s kids,” he said. “This is a huge step forward for Britain’s innocent victims of booze, the kids of parents who drink too much and end up scarred for life.”
Nearest tube – Elephant & Castle underground station (Northern and Bakerloo lines).
Nearest Railway Station – Elephant & Castle
Buses from Elephant and Castle – ask bus driver for Burgess Park. Bus numbers: 12, 171, 148, 176, 68, 484, 42, 40, 45