Parental alcohol misuse causes horrific problems for children, study finds


Parental drinking is linked to more than one in three cases of the death or serious injury of a child through neglect or abuse in England, a new study shows.

The report, commissioned by a cross-party group of MPs and peers, found alcohol misuse was implicated in 37% of such cases between 2011 and 2014.

MP Liam Byrne said that parents who misuse alcohol can cause "horrific" problems for their children.

The study found that 15% of children had their bedtime routine disrupted due to their parents' drinking, and that 18% were embarrassed at seeing their parent drunk.

Freedom of information trawls show that more than half of councils still do not have a strategy to help children of alcoholics, and that referrals to alcohol treatment services are falling in more than 50% of local authorities.

MP Liam Byrne wants to highlight the impact parental drinking can have on children (Chris Ison/PA)
MP Liam Byrne wants to highlight the impact parental drinking can have on children (Chris Ison/PA)

It was also revealed that 92% of the 53 councils that provided information to the study are cutting their budgets for alcohol and drug treatment services.

Cuts differ in size from £9.6 million, or 58.1%, in Lancashire to £87,000, 1.1%, in Wolverhampton.

The study showed that the average drop in local authority funding was around £198,000.

The All-Party Group for Children of Alcoholics report called for better funding to help youngsters affected by parents who drink.

The plea came as the group marked International Children of Alcoholics Week.

Mr Byrne, who lost his father to alcoholism in 2015 and is chairman of the parliamentary group, said: "Millions of parents drink too much and their misuse of alcohol causes horrific problems for their children.

"Parental alcohol misuse scars kids for life and can lead many into a life of drinking too much themselves.

"Our campaign has now won a new commitment from Government for a national strategy to stop parental alcohol misuse.

"This new report shows just why the Government must act fast to put an effective plan in place."

The study said that 61% of care applications in England involved misuse of alcohol and/or drugs.

Children living with alcohol-dependent parents report feeling socially isolated and are reluctant to seek help due to feelings of stigma, shame and guilt about not wanting to betray parents, according to the study.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "We are acutely aware of the impact some parents drinking can have on their children -- that's why work is well underway on a new Children of Alcoholics Strategy, which will look at what further support we can provide to families to tackle alcohol harms.

"This comes in addition to our new higher duties to target cheap, high strength cider and the UK Chief Medical Officers' guidelines, which help adults make informed decisions about their drinking."