One thousand youngsters in Hartlepool are living with mums and dads who have drink problems, new figures have revealed.
Parents’ alcohol abuse is damaging the lives of an estimated 27,000 children in the North East, according to new research from The Children’s Society, with 1,000 in our town.
For three in five of these teenagers nationally, the same parent is also suffering from depression or anxiety, the charity’s survey of 3,000 families with children aged 10-17 found.
A total of two in five have lived with domestic violence and more than a quarter, 29%, have been homeless in the last five years.
Figures from the charity also show that more than 1.6 million teenagers nationwide have a parent with depression or anxiety and 1.7 million are living in homes struggling with problem debt in the UK.
Hartlepool Borough Council bosses said today that the issue is “priority” and it has been flagged up as part of the authority’s health and wellbeing strategy.
A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “The Hartlepool Safeguarding Children’s Board is examining the issue of both drugs and alcohol in relation to the impact on children and young people whose parents misuse substances.
“This is an issue that the council views as a priority and it has been flagged in the Health & Wellbeing Strategy.
“The council also offers a community-based drug & alcohol service for both adults and for children and young people.
“If parents are misusing substances then, upon referral, the Hartlepool Action Recovery Team (HART) would also assess any risk to children and young people.
“Based on the outcome of this assessment, a referral may be triggered to the Children’s Hub for further assessment.
“The Hub assessment can result in a number of different types of support.”
Colin Shevills, director of North East alcohol office Balance, said: “Children have the right to be safe from the drinking of others and these figures are worrying.
“However, it is not surprising that many adults are drinking too much when we live in a climate where alcohol is cheaper than ever before and is positioned by the industry as being essential if you are going to be popular and have fun. “The result is that the most vulnerable in our society are being put at risk – and that includes children.
“We need to support parents to make the right choices about their alcohol consumption.
“If we are serious about protecting our children we need the Government to provide the information about the risks of drinking.
“More important than that, we need them to address the affordability and promotion of alcohol by introducing a minimum unit price and restricting the industry’s ability to bombard everyone with unrealistically positive advertising messages.”
The organisation’s chief executive Matthew Reed said: “Millions of teenagers in the UK are suffering in silence with problems that would floor an adult.
“The hundreds of thousands of children whose parent has a drinking problem are sadly just the tip of the iceberg of children in desperate need of support.
“At a time when demand for council children’s services is rising, severe funding cuts from central government are leaving more and more to deal with these huge problems alone.
“Specialist services working with families to combat problem drinking, support for teenagers whose parent has mental ill health, or safe spaces for them to go when pressures at home mount, are becoming ever harder to find.
“Without support at an early stage as problems emerge, these families can quickly reach crisis point and the risks for the children involved grow.”
The Children’s Society argues that local services are crucial to make sure children in families affected by alcohol misuse are identified and that they are kept safe and well, but as cuts to children’s services bite, the early intervention services that could identify struggling young people and provide targeted support have shrunk across the UK.
The society is calling on the Government to “urgently address” the £2billion funding gap for local council children’s services.