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Funding for children of alcohol-dependent parents is insufficient

Council leaders have warned that the government funding to help the children of alcoholic parents does not go far enough.

Secretary for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt revealed a package of measured designed to help the estimated 200,000 children and young people living with an alcohol-dependent parent, backed with £6m of funding.

However, the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Children’s Services have warned that while some councils will be able to provide more support for children living in households with an alcohol-dependent parent, the government should provide sufficient funding to enable councils to provide all children with the support they need.

The package of measures includes:

  • fast access to support and mental health services for children and their families where there is a dependent drinker
  • quicker identification of at-risk children, including those undertaking inappropriate care responsibilities
  • the provision of outreach programmes to get more parents successfully through addiction treatment
  • early intervention programmes to reduce the numbers of children needing to go into care

The £6m funding includes a £4.5 million innovation fund for local authorities to develop plans that improve outcomes for children of alcohol-dependent parents and £1 million to fund national capacity building by non-governmental organisations.

Local authorities will be invited to bid for funding by coming up with innovative solutions based on local need, with priority given to areas where more children are affected. Public Health England will be responsible for working with the funded areas to monitor progress.

Launching the proposals, Jeremy Hunt said: “The consequences of alcohol abuse are devastating for those in the grip of an addiction–but for too long, the children of alcoholic parents have been the silent victims. This is not right, nor fair.

“These measures will ensure thousands of children affected by their parent’s alcohol dependency have access to the support they need and deserve.”

He has also appointed Steve Brine MP as the dedicated minister with specific responsibility for children with alcohol-dependent parents who will lead this work in addition to his role as public health minister.

However, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “With councils facing a £2 billion funding gap for children’s services by 2020, we urge government to provide sufficient funding to enable councils to provide all children with the support they need, when they need it.

“A joined-up strategy is needed across government for all children and young people, to include all vulnerable groups. This needs to inform the government’s green paper on children’s mental health to deliver the long-term reform needed to ensure the system speeds up the provision of support to children asking for help when they need it.

“We are also calling on the government to reverse reductions to the public health grant to councils, which will help local authorities to do more to tackle drug and alcohol misuse,” she added.

Stuart Gallimore, ADCS President, warned that alongside domestic abuse and mental health problems, parental substance misuse continues to be a growing reason for the involvement of children’s social care in safeguarding children.

“Given the scale of this issue the funding announced today that local authorities are invited to bid for will only help some children in some areas get the help and support that they need. More focus and, crucially, investment is needed to support all children affected by these issues.”

“Children’s services are facing a funding gap of at least £2bn by 2020 in the face of increased demand for our services. This is seriously hampering our ability to improve outcomes for children and their families as local authorities find themselves having to cut back on vital early help and preventative services that we know make a huge difference to children and families’ lives, by supporting them at the earliest opportunity, before they reach crisis point. Without adequate and sustainable funding for children’s services, without prioritising and resourcing preventative services children and families will be much worse off,” he concluded.

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