Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol related issues, today praised a government report on young carers but warned that children looking after alcohol-dependent parents were at even more risk because of the hidden nature of the problem.
The charity’s director Fiona Ryan said: “This report shows that young carers are a vulnerable group of children and the more hidden the child, the more vulnerable the child. The shame, stigma and denial that go with alcohol problems in families, mean young carers in these situations are at even greater risk of being isolated and suffering physical and emotional neglect. In the more extreme cases, there are clear child protection concerns: Children in families with problem alcohol and/or drug use are at increased risk of exposure to violence.”
UK research* has put the figure of young carers looking after someone with a substance misuse problem at around one in four and this is liable to be an underestimation. We know that young carers, children as young as 12, are having to take on adult responsibilities – this can mean everything from making sure there is food in the house, clean clothes for brothers and sisters, to making sure parents are safe. Not all children caring for parents with alcohol problems come from stereotypically deprived backgrounds but children whose lives are already difficult because of poverty face an even greater range of risks, for example, homelessness.
Ms Ryan said the State owed a debt to all young carers, not just morally but in a very concrete financial way because of the social services these children provide: “While all young carers need age-appropriate, resourced, accessible supports. Young carers, who are in their situation because of parental alcohol or drugs problems, also need to know it is safe to come out from hiding and that if they do, they will be supported. Children may need to be encouraged to make that journey. Training professionals in contact with children to identify when a child is in this situation is a key first step but the services have to be in place to help the child take the next step.”
Note to the Editor
- Alcohol Action Ireland is running the campaign Keeping It In The Family – Children Living With Problem Drinking Parents www.alcoholireland.ie
- We commissioned the first ever survey of adults in Ireland’s experiences of parental drinking during childhood
- We are currently working as part of the Europe-wide Children Affected By Parental Alcohol Problems project
*The Loughborough University Young Carer Research Group/ The Princess Royal Trust for Carers
For more information contact Alcohol Action Ireland (01) 878 0610 or 087 219 5723