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‘Startling’ figures revealed on number of children whose welfare is of concern due to parental issues

Thursday, 8 March 2018

‘Startling’ figures revealed on number of children whose welfare is of concern due to parental issues thumbnailDaniel McCrossan MLA

Statistics published by NSPCC Northern Ireland which reveal that its Helpline team made 130 referrals in the last year (2016/17) to the PSNI and social services with concerns about the wellbeing of children whose parent (s) is drinking to excess or taking drugs is "extremely concerning".

West Tyrone MLA., Daniel McCrossan, said that he sees evidence of such issues every week in his constituency offices.

"These figures are extremely concerning and startling," said Mr McCrossan. "This only covers calls made by concerning members of the public and this may only be the tip of the iceberg.

"Nearly every single week, concerns are raised at my offices by members of the public who are extremely concerned about the welfare of children. I pass these cases to relevant organisations like the NSPCC who are doing a fantastic job.

"Every child deserves to be raised in a loving, caring and supportive home. But unfortunately sometimes this is not the case and authorities do have to step in where there are drug and alcohol problems. This is a very sad fact, but the children's best interests must be paramount especially where there is neglect and abuse involved.

"I would encourage any member of the public to contact NSPCC to raise their concerns as they may very well be saving a child's life and securing their futures."

 

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.

Meanwhile, Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA, Rosemary Barton, has also expressed concern about the referral figures and the welfare of children.

The Lack woman said: "Alcohol or drug abuse can cause considerable distress in any home, but even more so when there are children present. As a former teacher of over 30 years, I sadly can recall a number of instances of children coming from homes with an addiction problem.

"Whilst it was inspiring to see the persistent willpower of these children, it was also tragic to watch as they lost part of their childhood through having to mature much earlier than their peers. They not only had to look after themselves, but they also played a much greater role in looking after the wellbeing of younger siblings.

"Sadly it is the cruel course of addictions that in the most serious cases they can develop to such an extent that all other priorities become secondary. That includes making sure their children are well fed, properly educated and receive the standard of parenting that they deserve," said Mrs Barton.

 

"It is essential that all statutory stakeholders are equipped to spot the signs of when children may be coming from homes with an addiction. Very often these young people will want to talk to someone, in an non-stigmatising manner, in order to help their parents receive the support they need," she concluded.

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 help@nspcc.org.uk

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