A Conservative minister has promised to produce a new strategy to help the children of alcoholics after she was moved to tears hearingÂ LabourÂ frontbencher Jon Ashworth talk about his fatherâ€™s drinking.
Nicola Blackwood, the public health minister, praised Ashworth for speaking out, along with Labour former minister Liam Byrne, about their experiences of growing up with an alcoholic parent.
â€œI hope each member who has spoken today will continue to work with me as we fight to tackle this social injustice,â€ she said, promising to sit down with MPs to draw up a strategy for tackling the problem.
Ashworth spoke in the debate after talking for the first time about his fatherâ€™s alcoholism in anÂ interview with the Guardian.
He told MPs: â€œI am the child of an alcoholic. Throughout my life, I was an only child, in the week I would live with my mum and at the weekends I would live with my dad and my dad would spend the whole weekend drunk.
â€œFrom the age of eight or so going to my dadâ€™s meant I was effectively the carer. It was very typical for my dad to pick me up from school and literally fall over because he was so drunk.â€
Ashworth recalled having to phone a taxi because his dad could not make the short walk up a street and coming home to find a fridge full of bottles of white wine. He also spoke about the pain of watching his father play in goal in a football match and his workmates shouting: â€œJon Ash is in goal, all you have to do is throw a can of Stella and heâ€™ll go for that rather than the ball.â€
The shadow health secretary added: â€œMy biggest regret in life is that my dad moved to Thailand when he was about 59. That was that, he just went. Six months later I got married and he promised me he would come to the wedding and the day before he phoned and said he was not coming.
â€œI was so angry I could hardly speak to him. I wanted him to meet my new wife and meet my new family. A few months later he was dead. I had to go to Thailand to get the body and deal with the funeral.
â€œThe friends he had met over there told me he was drinking a bottle of whisky a day. They told me he couldnâ€™t come to the wedding because he didnâ€™t want to embarrass me.
â€œWe were a working class family from Salford and I had gone to university and become a politician. Posh people would be at the wedding and he felt he would embarrass me by being there. I will always regret that.â€
Byrne, the chair of the all-party group of children of alcoholics, said Blackwoodâ€™s promise of a government strategy was a breakthrough.
â€œFor over a year weâ€™ve tried to make sure that the voices of children of alcoholics are heard in parliament making the case for change,â€ he said. â€œNow the government has listened. The government has agreed to sit down and hammer out a plan. Crucially ministers have agreed with our number one goal: no child of an alcoholic should ever feel alone.â€
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