NEW figures show the average monthly number of referrals made by the NSPCC Helpline about parental substance misuse in the West Midlands are up 72 per cent on pre-lockdown levels.
Referrals are made to external agencies such as the police and children’s services when concerns reported to the helpline are considered to be serious enough to warrant further investigation or if it is felt a family needs support.
Nationally, the number of people calling the NSPCC Helpline with concerns about parents’ use of drugs and alcohol has increased by 66 per cent since the first lockdown, according to new NSPCC data.
In the period before the first national lockdown (Jan 6 – Mar 22, 2020), there was an average of 709 contacts a month from adults worried a child was being placed at risk by their parent or carer’s use of drink and/or drugs.
In the 10 months since then (Apr 1 – Jan 31, 2021) this increased to an average of 1,178 contacts a month.
There were on average 84 referrals to agencies in the West Midlands per month before the first lockdown, and this has increased to an average of 144 since lockdown measures were introduced at the end of March – an increase of 72 per cent.
It comes as this week marks Children of Alcoholics Week to raise awareness of children affected by parental alcohol problems.
The charity says living in a household where a parent or carer misuses substances does not necessarily mean a child will experience abuse, but it can make it more difficult for parents to provide safe and consistent care and this can lead to abuse or neglect.
It adds that due to the pandemic, children are much more immersed in the problems they are facing at home.
Schools have stayed open for vulnerable children and those of key workers but many remain at home meaning there is no escape for those living with parental substance misuse.
Kam Thandi, head of NSPCC Helpline said: “At the NSPCC Helpline we’ve not only seen a rise in contacts and referrals but we’re also seeing families who weren’t previously known to children’s services requiring help and support for substance misuse.
“The pressures on families at the moment are unprecedented.
“To keep our children safe it’s vital that those who are relying on drugs and alcohol, to the extent that the care of their children comes second, must seek help.”
If anyone is concerned about their own drug or alcohol intake and that it is affecting their family, support can be accessed by contacting the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit Adfam.org.uk to find your nearest online support group.