This is the one of the four research papers for today’s debate on: “Parental Substance Misuse: Messages from Research”
Title of the paper: Parental Substance Misuse: An Islington Perspective
In this paper we will be discussing practice aimed at meeting the needs of children of drug and alcohol using parents. We will set the context both in terms of research and national guidance, before focusing on initiatives recently established in Islington. In the light of our own experience of what has worked and where the obstacles have been, we will conclude by making recommendations for colleagues in other authorities who may be considering establishing similar ways of working.
The Scope of the Problem:
In 2003, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs published Hidden Harm, the result of a national inquiry into the impact of parental drug use upon children. The report’s authors estimated that there were between 250,000 and 350,000 children of drug using parents in the UK; approximately one child for every drug user. In 2006, Turning Point, a national voluntary sector agency working with adult alcohol users, published Bottling it Up, which estimated that there were 1.3 million children in the UK living with parents who misuse alcohol. This equates to one in every 11 children.
In the last decade, there has been a surge in research into the prevalence of parental substance misuse as well as into the impact of parental drug and/or alcohol use upon parenting capacity and child development (Barnard and McKeganey, 2004; Kroll, 2004; Tunnard, 2002a, 2002b). Kearney (2003) found that families with substance misuse or mental health problems made up the majority (between 50 and 90 per cent) of social workers’ caseloads. Forrester and Harwin (2007) looked at all files allocated for long term work in four London children’s social care departments over a 12-month period. Of the 290 files, 100 families with 186 children involved concerns about parental substance misuse (34%).