Effective partnership working key to safeguarding children affected by parental alcohol misuse, Swanswell will say at upcoming conference

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Working in partnership to provide effective and innovative support for parents affected by alcohol misuse is key to ensuring children stay safe and happy.

Parental alcohol misuse doesn’t just affect those who are drinking or their partners – it can also have a detrimental effect on their children too

That’s what the national recovery charity will be saying at a conference in Central London on Thursday 13 December, called ‘Child and adolescent health and well-being: addressing the hidden harm caused by parental alcohol misuse.’

The event offers an opportunity for social workers, education and health practitioners, third sector practitioners and stakeholders to look at how best to address parental drinking and safeguard children against the harm alcohol misuse causes.

Recent statistics show around 2.6 million children in the UK are living with parents who are hazardous drinkers and 705,000 are living with parents who are alcohol dependent (Alcohol Concern/Children's Society, 2010).

More than 100 children, including those as young as five, contact ChildLine every week with worries about their parents alcohol or drug use (NSPCC, 2010).

Swanswell’s been invited to share its knowledge and experience of developing innovative projects that offer support to parents, such as its partnership with online social networking site Netmums.

Four years ago, Swanswell was approached by Netmums to provide appropriate support to users who had posted questions in their ‘Coffee House Forum’.

Since then, members have been regularly turning to the Alcohol, Drugs and Addiction Support section for help, posting general questions that help everyone or asking for more confidential advice through private messaging.

Domestic abuse is one of the issues regularly raised by parents affected by alcohol misuse - in England alone, around 360,000 incidents of domestic abuse are linked to alcohol misuse (NICE, 2010), leaving a lasting effect on victims and their children.

So Swanswell created an innovative six-session ‘Alcohol and domestic abuse prevention programme’ that helps alcohol workers identify victims and perpetrators.

During the conference, the national charity will also talk about this programme, how it provides brief interventions or referrals to appropriate services, and how it achieved a 73% zero re-offending rate during a recent pilot.

Jo Woods, Regional Development Manager for Swanswell, said: ‘Parental alcohol misuse doesn’t just affect those who are drinking or their partners – it can also have a detrimental effect on their children too.

‘Regular, excessive drinking can reduce the ability to be an effective parent, leading to the risk of their children falling victim to abuse, behavioural problems, low educational attainment or illness.

‘It can also give children the idea that excessive drinking is acceptable and becomes the norm – leading to problems for them later on in life.

‘We know there can be many complex reasons behind someone’s drinking – as a coping mechanism for stress, grief or domestic abuse for example – and many people feel too embarrassed or ashamed to come forward for help.

‘So it’s important for services to recognise this and consider working in partnership to deliver programmes such as Swanswell’s support on social networks or its’ alcohol and domestic abuse prevention programme to safeguard children and improve family life.’

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Stuart Goodwin
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