Earlier this week the NSPCC reported that more than 4,000 children called Childline during the last 12 months worried about their parents’ drinking or drug habits. 35% of the callers reported physical abuse, three times more than other children and 20% mentioned family conflict. Children as young as 5 also spoke about having to look after siblings or their own parents.
The government’s own figures show that parental substance misuse is an issue in 49% of all child protection plans nationally and 75% of all serious case reviews. Drug and alcohol misuse by parents and the effects of domestic violence on children are significant concerns for everyone working with families.
The Children North East Hidden Harm service works intensively with families where parental substance misuse, mental health or domestic violence affects parenting and children are at risk of harm. Our Hidden Harm workers are highly qualified practitioners who can help bring about lasting positive change in families in crisis. We do this by working intensively with the whole family in their own home – parents and children several hours a day for four to six weeks using a range of techniques. Our Hidden Harm service is available from 7.30 am to 8 pm for 7 days a week; and in exceptional cases throughout the night.
The work is tailored to the needs of the family but focuses on child safety, coping strategies, practical support to establish routines, managing stress and anger. After the initial intensive period we continue to follow up for at least 12 months providing additional support as necessary. Feedback is very important so Hidden Harm workers write to the family after every visit, and send copies of those letters to the referrer (usually a social worker) building up a comprehensive picture of family life.
The Hidden Harm service can also save Councils money by keeping children safely at home with their parents instead of being taken into care. On average it costs a Council £36,653 a year to look after each child in care. The Children North East Hidden Harm service costs a fraction of that for a whole family.
It is important that issues affecting children are brought to public attention but the NSPCC and other big children's charities are all guilty of scaremongering especially in summer when there is not a lot of other news about. But they rarely say what can and is being done, the Children North East Hidden Harm service is already actively working with families to reduce and reverse the harm that parental substance misuse has on children.