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05 March 2018

NSPCC Northern Ireland reports continuing public concern about parental substance misuse

NSPCC Northern Ireland today reveals that its Helpline team has made 130 referrals in the last year (2016/17) to the PSNI and social services with concerns about the wellbeing of children whose parent is drinking to excess or taking drugs.

Last year across the UK the leading children’s charity received 10,207 calls and emails – on average almost 200 a week - about parental substance misuse.

Of these contacts 8,793 - (*) involved more than 15,000 children and were deemed serious enough to be referred on to local authorities or the police. As well as the 130 referrals in Northern Ireland, the Helpline issued advice in a further 18 cases.

The majority of contacts to the NSPCC Helpline about substance misuse are from members of the public worried that a parent is drinking too much alcohol which in turn is affecting their ability to provide a safe and supportive environment for their children.

In many of these cases other concerns such as neglect and physical and emotional abuse against the child, parental domestic abuse and parental mental health issues are also raised.

The NSPCC’s Helpline is a free and confidential service that adults can contact by phone or online to get advice or share their concerns about a child.

One member of the public called the Helpline and said: “I’m really worried for the safety of a child living with his parents. There is always heavy smoke lingering around the family home and I regularly see the parents intoxicated with alcohol and drugs. Sometimes I can hear them shouting and screaming profanities at each other whilst the child is in the home. It’s really upsetting.”

David Burns, who is the manager of the Helpline team at NSPCC Northern Ireland, said: “Every child should be able to grow up in a home where they feel safe and supported. The sad fact is that many young people are being deprived of this simple right due to one or both of their parents abusing drink and drugs.

“It is vitally important for the wellbeing of the whole family that adults who are misusing any substance seek help. And in doing so they will gain a better understanding of themselves and what they need to do to give their child the best start in life.
“We would encourage family members or the public worried about someone with substance abuse to call our Helpline to get advice about taking the first steps.”

The NSPCC’s Helpline is available on 0808 800 5000 or via

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