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Children suffering at the hands of alcoholic parents will be offered a lifeline under new plans announced by Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt today to help identify and support at risk children more quickly. The package of measures - backed by £6 million in joint funding from DHSC and DWP - is designed to help the estimated 200,000 children in England living with alcohol dependent parents by providing them with rapid access to support and advice. The new measures will include:

  • Rapid access to mental health services and support for children and their whole families where there is a dependent drinker.

  • Identify and support at risk children more quickly - including those undertaking inappropriate care responsibilities.

  • Provide outreach programmes to get more parents successfully through addiction treatment.

  • Offer early intervention programmes to reduce the numbers of children needing to go into care.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Jeremy Hunt said: "The consequences of alcohol abuse are devastating for those in the grip of an addiction - but for too long, the children of alcoholic parents have been the silent victims. This is not right, nor fair. "These measures will ensure thousands of children affected by their parent's alcohol dependency have access to the support they need and deserve. "Some things matter much more than politics, and I have been moved by my Labour counterpart Jon Ashworth's bravery in speaking out so honestly about life as the child of an alcoholic. I pay tribute to him and MPs with similar experiences across the House who have campaigned so tenaciously to turn their personal heartache into a lifeline for children in similar circumstances today."The Health and Social Care Secretary has also appointed a dedicated minister with specific responsibility for children with alcohol-dependent parents. Steve Brine MP will lead this work in addition to his role as public health minister. Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: "All children deserve to feel safe - and it is a cruel reality that those growing up with alcoholic parents are robbed of this basic need. "Exposure to their parent's harmful drinking leaves children vulnerable to a host of problems both in childhood and later in life - and it is right that we put a stop to it once and for all. "I look forward to working with local authorities and charities to strengthen the services that make a real difference to young people and their families." Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance Kit Malthouse said: "Alcohol abuse can be a major cause of parental conflict, which has a devastating impact on children's mental health. "This joint initiative will help alcohol dependent parents get the support they need earlier and will improve the lives of thousands of families." Local authorities will be invited to bid for funding by coming up with innovation solutions based on local need - with priority given to areas where more children are affected. Public Health England will be responsible for working with the funded areas to monitor progress and assess interim outcomes. Funding will also be allocated where local authorities include proposals to reduce parental conflict in homes where alcohol is an issue. The package of interventions, totalling up to £6million, includes:

  • A £4.5million innovation fund for local authorities to develop and implement plans that improve outcomes for children of alcohol dependent parents.

  • £1 million to fund national capacity building by NGOs to complement local activity - including through awareness raising and training programmes.

  • £500,000, which was announced at the end of last year, to expand helplines for children.

Of the 200,000 children in England living with alcohol-dependant parents, the NSPCC reports a 16 per cent rise in calls involving alcohol or drug abuse in recent years. The charity now receives one call every hour related to drug or alcohol abuse. Research shows that having an alcoholic parent can have a long-lasting and devastating impact on a child. Children of alcoholics are twice as likely to have problems at school, three times as likely to consider suicide and five times more likely to develop an eating disorder[1]. Over a third of all child serious case reviews involve a history of alcohol abuse. The new funding follows Government investment of £500,000 to expand national helplines for children with alcoholic parents, meaning hundreds more young people can access confidential and timely support at an earlier stage. Commenting on the announcement, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families Isabelle Trowler, said: "As a social worker, I have witnessed, too often, the devastating impact that alcohol addiction can have on families. Children often face chaos and conflict and sometimes violence and severe neglect."Parents struggling to cope need support to get back on their feet and children need to be provided with safety and stability. I warmly welcome this opportunity to reach those that need help and support." - ENDS -Notes to editors:

  • The £4.5 million innovation fund - which will be delivered over three years - will finance and evaluate up to eight local authorities to implement innovative, evidence-informed interventions to improve outcomes for children whose parents are dependent on alcohol. A call for applications will be announced soon.

  • We will ask successful bidders to commit to ambitious plans that use evidence based interventions which identify significant numbers of affected children.

  • The focus of the fund will be on encouraging and improving linkages between systems and services, and providing better routes into support for children and their families. This might include developing plans to enhance the safeguarding children of dependent drinkers across their childhood, reduce the burden on children's social services, tackling parental conflict in homes where alcohol is an issue and increasing the proportion of dependent parents in treatment.

  • The innovation fund programme includes £2.5million from the Department of Work and Pensions to tackle parental conflict.

  • £1million will be made available to fund national capacity-building by NGOs. This may be used for example to fund awareness raising and training, although the fund will be open to bids from organisations, to set out what would make an impact.

  • The final £500,000, which was announced last year, will fund the expansion of existing helplines to increase the support available for children.


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