Policy overview

“The hardest part was the never ending repeated sense of crushing disappointment when one of my parents was drunk again. In one way, I came to expect it but it never stopped being disappointing or painful; there’s always a small amount of hope that you cling on to when you have a parent with alcoholism.” Shared Voices Contributor


Alcohol Action Ireland, together with a pioneering group of founders, established ‘Silent Voices’ – an advocacy initiative to highlight the hidden harms of problem parental alcohol use. 


The initiative is guided by our strategic plan, ‘Leading Change: a society free from alcohol harm – Strategic Plan 2020-24′, which has a goal of a childhood free from alcohol harm.


In recent years, a number of government policy and strategy documents have recognised the harmful impact of parental problem alcohol use on children‘s health, well-being and development. This is very welcome, and comes with the weight of many years research and evidence, demonstrating the hugely negative effects of this issue on children and families and family life, behind it. 


Parental problem substance use is an adverse childhood experience (ACE) and a gateway ACE, that can lead to, or simply be present with multiple other adversities and has been recognised as such since 1998. In 2018, a strategic document was developed by the HSE and Tusla to tackle the problem within their services and the document gives a detailed overview of the research on the issue, which is often called ‘hidden harm.’ 


But while the evidence is clear and requisite commitments have been made, action is still too slow for today’s children. 


Policy solutions:

  • Policy Briefing – problem alcohol use in the home, the invisible victims of alcohol harm.
  • Alcohol Action Ireland policy and research overview, with recommendations on what needs to be done here.
  • National policy – a joint strategy from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, and the Health Service Executive.
  • Council of Europe research and policy initiative on growing up with problem alcohol use in the home.

Recording of European event focussed on needs of children and families affected by parental drug use.