On the morning of 4 December a cross-section of Irish charities/NGOs along with public health officials met to discuss the estimated 61,000 to 104,000 children in Ireland affected by parental alcohol problems. It was the first opportunity many of us had to focus on the issue and share experiences.
Two themes quickly emerged from presentations and discussions:
Children experiencing alcohol related harm in the family from parental alcohol misuse are effectively “invisible” in terms of policy-making and this filters down to services
There does not appear to be an integrated “joined-up” service response to meet the needs of these children and their families
What needs to happen…
Children affected by parental alcohol problems need to become visible to politicians; policy-makers; professionals and public: a first step is research to establish the extent of the problem and the reality of these children’s lives
Services available to children need to join-up; mechanisms need to be put in place connecting service experience/ observations to top-level planning and funding levels
The Scottish experience suggests that real change can only come about when children affected by parental alcohol problems is understood as a potential child welfare/ protection issue
Children affected by parental alcohol problems can experience a spectrum of harm from depression and anxiety, social withdrawal, behavioural problems, stress and missed school through taking on caring roles to domestic violence, child abuse, a shortage of food and clean clothing and other forms of neglect.
Alcohol Action Ireland is campaigning to make a difference to these children and their families. For more information on our campaign click here