Turning Point Launches Bottling It Up

News item posted: 19 June 2017

Thousands of children living with parents with drink problems are at risk of depression, anxiety and increased anger. Alcohol misuse within families is an escalating concern, according to a new report published today (Tuesday). The findings from Turning Point, the health and social care organisation, reveal that parents who misuse alcohol risk damaging their children's lives and futures.

The report called Bottling It Up: The Next Generation is warning that early screening and identification of families is needed urgently.  This is to prevent the 'inter-generational cycle' of alcohol misuse which blights the lives of children and undermines their chances of school and job success.

An estimated 2.6 million children live with parents who are hazardous drinkers, and around 33,000 adults who are in treatment for alcohol problems also have parental responsibilities.

Bottling It Up: The Next Generation reveals that nearly half (5,326) of people who used Turning Point's alcohol treatment services last year were parents.

Their (parents) average alcohol consumption was 30 units per day, 24 for mothers and 33 for fathers- or the equivalent of 3 bottles of wine or up to 15 pints of beer.  A total of 3,395 children lived with these service users, including extended family members such as cousins or nephews.

More than a third (1,925) were mothers and some revealed they turned to alcohol in response to the pressure to be 'supermums.'

Some mothers were drinking more than 70 units a week, the equivalent of nearly eight bottles of wine and this drinking was often carried out in secret when their children had gone to bed.

A snapshot survey of 100 parents currently using Turning Point's alcohol treatment services also found that:

  • More than 4 in 5 (83percent) worried their drinking impacted on their children.
  • More than half (55percent) believed it had led to increased anger, anxiety and depression in their children
  • More than a quarter of (27percent) parents felt their drinking increased the risk of anti-social behaviour in their children and undermined their chances of academic and work success (28percent).
  • Nearly a third (32percent) said their children had been forced into taking on the role of carer in the family.
  • More than a quarter (26percent) said at some point they have seen their child/children as the reason for drinking
  • A separate poll, commissioned by Turning Point, of more than 1,000 people countrywide found that:
  • Nearly a quarter of parents are concerned about their own drinking, on a scale from slightly to very concerned.
  • More than half (52percent) had allowed their children to drink. Of these, more than three quarters (77percent) let their children aged under 16 consume alcohol.
  • A total of 6percent allowed their children aged 10 and under to drink alcohol.
  • Nearly a quarter (24percent) of parents had been drunk in front of their children.

The Government is set to release an alcohol strategy to address the health and social impacts of drinking. But Turning Point warns that more needs to be done to help parents and families affected by alcohol misuse. 

Turning Point's Director of Substance Misuse Services, John Mallalieu said:

'In a climate where both services for treatment and for troubled families are being streamlined, it makes sense that alcohol services should be given the impetus to prioritise parents, or soon-to-be parents, into treatment. They should be helped to develop parental and coping skills so the problems they are experiencing with alcohol are not passed on to their children.

'Early intervention is key in preventing a new generation of children at risk of experiencing poor mental health, drug and alcohol addictions, truancy and worse. We must end the intergenerational cycle that their alcohol misusing parents are leading them into by example. Where resources for action are scarce, it makes economic sense to integrate family and parenting specialists into existing treatment services to protect future generations from harm, and the need to access the specialist services their parents currently require.'

Regional Manager, Darren Woodward, from Turning Point substance misuse services, says alcohol misuse within the family is an escalating and systemic problem within families;

'Alcohol misuse is a hidden and growing problem which affects the whole family. When an adult has an alcohol problem, children suffer too.  This can impact on how well they do at school, their job prospects, and their mental health. We need to make sure parents have the right support to deal with their drinking at the earliest possible stage.  At the moment, the amount of information and support for families is inadequate.'