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More than 400,000 children live in 'toxic trio' households

More than 400,000 children live in 'toxic trio' households: read the full story below

There are 420,000 children in England living in a household with an adult experiencing all three ‘toxic trio’ issues - domestic abuse, parental substance misuse and mental ill health to a moderate/severe extent, analysis has found.

Research carried out for the Office of the Children's Commissioner for England found that there are 100,000 children in England (0.9% of all children in England) in a household with an adult facing all three ‘toxic trio’ issues to a severe extent.

"Our work has only begun to shine a light on the many issues children face living in these households," said Anne Longfield, children'scommissioner for England. "We know from the data that significant numbers of children are living with domestic abuse, parental substance misuse and mental health issues."

The 420,000 children experiencing the 'toxic trio' to a moderate-severe extent represent 3.6% of all children in England.

The data was based on the 2014 mental health survey of adults and while these estimates are likely to offer the best available evidence on the scale of the ‘toxic trio’ in England, the estimates are conservative with the ‘true’ household-level prevalence of the ‘toxic trio’ being higher than has been estimated here. This is because the data only relates to one adult in the household, and therefore do not capture any issues affecting other adults in the household.

Growing up in households where the 'toxic trio' is evident can impact on a child's wellbeing and outcomes.

Anne Longfield said the research had revealed how children spoke openly about the problems at home and the impact it had on their day to day life. For many the issues experienced at home were so frequent that it became normality and it was only as they became older and went to friends’ houses that they realised how different their home life was.

Some children became carers for their parents and younger siblings. Living in these households impacted on their schooling, with many children speaking about missing school or being unable to get homework done. Many rarely went out and had fun with friends or family. Children often felt anxious, scared, depressed and ashamed, with many believing that the problems at home were their fault. As a result, there was considerable apprehension about speaking to anyone and seeking support – often fuelled by threats from home that if they told anyone they would be taken into care.

Many were in contact with social services or had been present when police or ambulance services had been called out in response to an incident. The lack of support provided at these times had created a mistrust in services, whilst some questioned and felt angry at why offers of support had not been accepted or sought by parents.

Despite the problems at home and the impact it had on them, Ms Longfield said children were also very clear about their love and trust they had in their parents. For some this helped them to minimise the risk being placed on them by living in these households.

"We must continue to ensure that their voices are heard and used to inform the development of effective strategies to support children and families living in these households," Ms Longfield concluded.

Estimating the prevalence of the ‘toxic trio’

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