UK & World News
Binge-Drinking Parents: Calls To Helpline Rise
The number of children calling ChildLine with concerns about their parents' drinking and drug abuse has doubled in the past year, the charity has said.
The NSPCC's 24-hour helpline received 5,323 calls - more than 100 a week - from children worried about by their parents' behaviour, up from 2,509 the previous year.
Many of the children who contacted the service were between the ages of 12 and 15, but a substantial minority - one in 10 - were aged 11 or under and still at primary school.
The charity said thousands of children live in fear of being on the receiving end of their parents' anger, with one in six saying they had fallen victim to physical violence by their mum or dad when they were under the influence.
Many children are being forced to live in dirty and even dangerous surroundings because the household money is frittered away on alcohol, the charity added.
The emotional trauma of their parents' substance abuse combined with their chaotic home lives is driving many children to depression, self harm and even suicidal thoughts, the NSPCC claimed.
One child told ChildLine: "My dad has been drinking and taking drugs a lot recently - it's ruining our family.
"He gets angry when he has been drinking so he says nasty things to us like we are stupid and worthless. I'm finding it difficult to deal with because underneath it all I know he's a really good dad."
Tom Rahilly, head of services for families affected by alcohol and drugs at the NSPCC, said: "What we hear from children is that they are concerned that their parents are using drugs or alcohol to blot out worries in their lives around jobs, money and housing issues.
"The recent benefit cuts are hitting families in particular households. But the higher counselling rates could also be that more children are aware of ChildLine and that they have someone to turn to."
However, he warned against stereotyping and said that children from all walks of life, including middle class families, were affected by the problem.
He said that many children were faced with a "feeling of helplessness", while others were faced with the traumatic role reversal of playing parent to their own mother and father.
The charity warned the figures were just the tip of the iceberg, and estimates that some 250,000 children in the UK have parents with drug problems, and three in 10 children live with at least binge-drinking parent.
:: Children can seek help by contacting ChildLine on 0800 1111 or at childline.org.uk. Adults with concerns about a child should call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.