Five Point Plan for Government: National Children of Alcoholics Week

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Young boy looking over womans shoulderX250One in six cases of child abuse in Ireland is alcohol related – and this figure is liable to be an under estimation.

In the recent ISPCC National Children’s Consultation Survey of almost 10,000 children, one in 11 children said their parents’ alcohol use had a negative impact on their lives.

Children provided insights into living with a parent with an alcohol problem:

“He roars at me and calls me a scumbag and other bad words that hurt my feelings.”

“It puts you off your work in school as you’re thinking about it in school.”

“I don’t get to go anywhere or have fun the next day because I’m minding my brothers.”

The Alcohol Action Ireland Keeping It In The Family survey 2009 asked adults about their experiences of parental alcohol use in their childhood:

  • One in 12 reported witnessing alcohol-linked parental conflict during their childhood
  • 7% of people reported often feeling afraid or unsafe as children due to parental drinking. If that percentage were applied to the current number of children in the country then that would mean 70,000 children frequently feeling afraid or unsafe as a result of parental drinking
  • The same number said they frequently had to look after younger siblings as a result of parental drinking

Alcohol Action Ireland Director Fiona Ryan said:   “One in eleven Irish schoolchildren say their parents’ drinking has a negative effect on their lives. The vast majority of these children suffer in silence, their plight either unheard or ignored.”

The following five point plan should be implemented by the next Government if it is serious about addressing this serious child welfare/protection issue:

Five Steps

  • Carry out an examination of prevalence to determine the extent of the problem across the population
  • Resource and train staff interacting with children in a professional capacity, on the impact of parental substance misuse on children and families
  • Identify supports and services that can be delivered to children in their own right
    -A Scottish study (Untold Damage Children’s accounts of living with harmful parental drinking, Childline/SHAAP, 2009) of young people’s experiences of living with harmful parental drinking and its impacts on the young person’s health and well-being recommends that children and young people be provided with access to formal and informal support services including self-referral services. Suggested services include helplines, in-school counselling, therapeutic support and emergency accommodation
  • Introduce a minimum price for alcohol – a floor price below which alcohol cannot be sold
  • Curb availability and accessibility and regulate the promotion of alcohol – alcohol is a controlled substance but it is sold like an ordinary grocery and is now part of the family shopping basket

Ms Ryan said:   “We have had generations of children affected by parental alcohol problems. Today we have an unprecedented opportunity to make a difference to children’s lives today and to a new generation of children.

“The next Government needs to undertake a serious examination of the extent and impact of parental alcohol problems on children and introduce a mixture of targeted initiatives and population-wide approaches which have been proven to reduce overall levels of alcohol consumption.”