Children of substance abuse parents cases on the rise, says NSPCC
Around 450 calls have been made to a helpline in the last three years raising concerns about drug and alcohol abuse taking place around children in Northern Ireland.
Last year alone, the NSPCC helpline received 152 calls from people in the region worried about children who were in the care of adults they believed were misusing substances.
The figure was up 14% on the 133 reports made in 2013/14.
The Northern Ireland statistics were outlined along with UK-wide data that revealed 8,500 people contacted the free, confidential helpline nationwide last year about the problem, an average of almost one call every hour.
The figures have been released to mark the start of Children of Alcoholics Week, which aims to raise awareness of issues around parental alcohol problems.
In Northern Ireland, the NSPCC made 394 referrals to external agencies on the back of the reports since 2013, including the PSNI and children's services.
One member of the public got in touch with the NSPCC helpline to report concerns of drug-taking in a home also occupied by children.
The caller said: "They have a party going on in the house every weekend. I see lots of people entering and leaving the property and there is a strong smell of drugs lingering in the air when this happens.
"The children are inside the home when the parties are taking place and I'm becoming worried for their welfare. The mother has a drinking problem and she regularly leaves the children at home on their own too. I don't want to approach her myself as it may create tension between us."
Head of the NSPCC in Northern Ireland, Neil Anderson, said: "Drugs and alcohol can have hugely damaging effects around children, and it's clearly troubling to see a rise over time in reports of this problem to our helpline.
"Substance misuse all too often leads to the neglect or abuse of a child and it's absolutely crucial that we do all we can to stop that. The NSPCC provides services directly to families suffering from these problems to help them overcome them and provide their children with a safe and secure upbringing.
"But everyone has a duty to look out for potential signs of distress and the NSPCC's helpline is there to provide help and support 24 hours a day."