Parental drink and drug use tops reports made to NSPCC helpline
A charity helpline in Northern Ireland made 130 referrals in a year to the PSNI and social services after concerns were raised about children who had a parent drinking too heavily or taking drugs.
The NSPCC said that, across the UK, it received 10,207 calls and emails in the 12 months to last April about parental substance misuse.
Some 8,793 cases were from children and were deemed serious enough to be referred to local authorities or the police.
As well as the 130 referrals here, the helpline issued advice in a further 18 cases. David Burns, the manager of the helpline team at NSPCC Northern Ireland, voiced concern at the figures.
"Every child should be able to grow up in a home where they feel safe and supported," he said.
"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."
The NSPCC said the majority of contacts are from members of the public worried that a parent is drinking too much alcohol.
Callers worried that it was affecting parents' ability to provide a safe and supportive environment for their children.
In many cases other concerns such as neglect and physical and emotional abuse against the child, parental domestic abuse and parental mental health issues were also raised.
The NSPCC released details of a typical call to the helpline.
The caller 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."
In another call, a concerned relative said: "The children were meant to see their mum, but she had been drinking and was not in a suitable state for the children to see her.
"This isn't the first time and the children usually stay with a friend of the mum when it happens.
"However recently they've become very withdrawn and emotional about their mum leaving them at a friend's.
"They become distressed, saying they don't know when they'll see her again.
"I'm worried that she's unable to give them the care that they need."