'Perfect storm' of lockdowns sees substance misuse referrals soar

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In the last 10 months, there has been a total of 1,259 referrals made to agencies in the East of England - Credit: PA

Drug and alcohol misuse helpline referrals have 'soared' across the region since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, latest figures have revealed.

The monthly average number of referrals made by the NSPCC helpline to agencies in the East of England about parental substance misuse has more than doubled since last April, according to the charity.

The 149% increase, from 51 to 126 average monthly referrals for this region, compares to a 66% increase in calls to the NSPCC helpline from people across the UK worried about the issue.

Referrals are made to external agencies such as the police and children’s services when concerns are considered serious enough to warrant further investigation, or if it is felt a family needs support.

In the last 10 months, there has been a total of 1,259 referrals made to agencies in the East of England.

Kam Thandi, head of the NSPCC Helpline, said: “Parental substance misuse can have a seriously detrimental impact on the whole family. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have created a perfect storm for families affected by this problem.

"To keep our children safe it’s vital that those who are relying on drugs and alcohol, to the extent that the care of their children is being compromised, must seek help.

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“The government must also invest more in local services. Our frontline practitioners have told us that many parents and carers are struggling to access specialist support services which will help them recover from the impact of the pandemic.”

Vivienne Evans OBE, chief executive of Adfam, a charity which provides support to families affected by drug, alcohol or gambling addiction, said: “We are seeing that the usual daily challenges associated with a parent or family member’s alcohol or drug problem – fear, domestic abuse, isolation, loneliness, and mental stress – are being exacerbated by the lockdown measures.

“As drug and alcohol misuse is so stigmatised, we know that many young people are scared to seek support, and for many children affected by parental substance use, the lockdown impedes them from the safety of the school environment.

"We know that with the right kind of support, children and young people can navigate this challenging time. We urge families not to wait until breaking point.”

The NSPCC has urged anyone with concerns about a child due to a parent’s drug or alcohol intake to contact the helpline for support on 0808 800 5000.

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