Charities Break the Silence for Children of Alcoholics Week
New research has revealed a shocking increase in the number of children who have been bereaved due to a parent’s drinking. According to analysis of the latest helpline data by Nacoa (the National Association for Children of Alcoholics), requests for help from children who have lost a parent due to alcoholism have risen from 29% in 2020 to a staggering 39% in 2023.
One helpline caller shared, “It’s been so hard to watch my niece and her two children go through this over the years – even harder to watch them walk behind their dad’s coffin last week. Thank goodness there are organizations like Nacoa to help.”
These statistics come in the wake of recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which show a 27% increase in alcohol-specific deaths since 2019. The number of female alcohol deaths has also risen by 37% in the last five years.
Nacoa’s helpline has seen an annual increase in calls, reaching over 33,000 in 2023. And the numbers continue to rise.
In response to this alarming trend, MPs and charities are joining forces to plead with the government to reinstate the abandoned government strategy for children of alcohol-dependent parents. The Alcohol Families Alliance and Chairs of the major alcohol All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) have written a joint letter to Health Minister Rt Hon. Andrea Leadsom MP, urging her to prioritize support for these vulnerable children after all dedicated services were cut in 2021.
Despite the government investing £267 million into drug and alcohol treatment services, no funds were ring-fenced for dedicated services for children and families. As a result, there is currently no direct plan in place to support those experiencing mental distress and abuse due to a parent’s drinking.
Eleven-year-old Emily has also written to the government, pleading for help. “Please change the law around alcohol and help children like me so not as many people end up like this,” she wrote. “If you even care about lives and want to save more people, then the NHS won’t be so busy. Please, I beg you, help Nacoa to help children of alcoholics so they can be happier and have someone to understand them. I miss my dad so much, and so does my brother. I would be so happy if you help us all, please.”
In a show of support for these vulnerable children, the Right Hon. Jonathan Ashworth MP will be announced as a patron of Nacoa during Children of Alcoholics Week 2024. As a passionate advocate for supporting children of alcoholics, he will lend his voice to raise awareness for this important cause.
Children of Alcoholics Week 2024, also known as #COAWeek2024, will take place from 11 to 17 February 2024. This annual event aims to raise awareness for the 2.6 million children in the UK who are affected by a parent’s drinking.
This year’s COA Week theme is ‘Breaking the Silence’. Many children and young people feel that their parent’s alcohol problems are their responsibility and a shameful secret to keep. But finding information and support is crucial to breaking the cycle and making healthy choices.
“Breaking the silence means finding a trusted person to speak to about the things you are going through,” explains Nacoa CEO Hilary Henriques. “It means finding a moment to yourself to hear the experiences of others. It means educating other adults in society. Without support, we know that these are some of the most vulnerable children you can imagine in the United Kingdom.”
These children are more likely to develop addictions, struggle in school, get into trouble with the police, develop an eating disorder, or consider suicide. But with help and support, they can take a different path.
Nacoa leads the week’s activities, focusing on improving the well-being of these vulnerable children in the UK. Similar activities are also held across the globe, including in Europe, India, Korea, and the USA.
The campaign’s messages include the fact that the UK government is failing the most vulnerable children of alcoholics by providing no targeted support. Being a child of an alcoholic is a real issue, and living with parental addiction has lasting impacts. These children deserve to be helped in their own right, and with support, they can break the cycle of addiction.
The campaign also calls for frontline services to be more aware of the family secret of addiction and for the government to reinstate support for children of alcoholics. It also aims to promote the voices of children of alcoholics in the public sphere and challenge the stigma that keeps vulnerable children silenced.
Nacoa’s patrons include Tony Adams OBE, Calum Best, Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP, David Coldwell, Lorri Haines, Geraldine James OBE, Cherie Lunghi, Elle Macph
Derick is an experienced reporter having held multiple senior roles for large publishers across Europe. Specialist subjects include small business and financial emerging markets.