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Calls to ChildLine more than double

This news post is about 10 years old

Concern over increase in calls to helpline about parents’ drinking and drug taking

Nearly 1,000 children contacted ChildLine counsellors in Scotland concerned with their parents’ drug and alcohol abuse last year.

The Aberdeen and Glasgow based centres received a fifth of all the NSPCC-run helpline’s calls on the issue in 2012/13.

It is vital that the parents are offered help, and that these children get the protection they need and don’t have to suffer in silence

Throughout the UK the number of calls regarding parents’ drinking and drug taking more than doubled to 5,323 compared to 2,509 the previous year.

Almost two thirds were from 12 to 14-year-olds, although one in 10 were of primary school age.

Susan Dobson, ChildLine service manager, described the situation as “heart-breaking”.

She added: “So many young people struggle alone because they do not know where to go for help or are unsure of what might happen if they speak to someone.

“They may fear being taken away from their families by social services and put into care and believe that they are protecting their family by keeping quiet.

“However, both they and their parents are in danger of suffering physical and psychological harm. It’s vital that the parents are offered help, and that these children get the protection they need and don’t have to suffer in silence.”

Many children spoke to ChildLineabout living in fear of their parents’ anger, with one in six saying they’d been hit by their mum or dad when they were under the influence.

Some children spoke of living in dirty and even dangerous surroundings, lacking essentials because money was frittered on alcohol or drugs.

One teenager, who contacted the Aberdeen ChildLine base, told counsellors she cried herself to sleep most nights as things were so tense at home due to her mum’s drinking.

Another told Glasgow counsellors her mum, who has a drug problem, told her she wished she had never been born.

The caller added: “It's all a lot to cope with and it’s affecting everything in my life like my school work and friendships. I feel like people just don't want to hear my problems.”

The Scottish Government said it would continue to educate pupils about substance abuse in schools.

Minister for children and young people Aileen Campbell said: “Dealing with parental substance misuse will be devastating for a child so we must recognise the trauma that each one of the calls to ChildLine represents.

“Reaching out about difficulties in your family is an incredibly brave step to take and young people need to be reassured that help is available to make a positive change in their lives.”

The NSPCC currently estimates 40,000 to 60,000 children in Scotland may be affected by problematic parental drug use and 36,000 to 51,000 children in Scotland are living with and may be at risk from their parents’ alcohol misuse.