Concerns about drug and alcohol use ‘soar since start of pandemic’ | Newry Times | Latest Newry News, Newry Sport and Newry Business for Newry City

Concerns about drug and alcohol use ‘soar since start of pandemic’ | Newry Times

The number of people calling the NSPCC Helpline with concerns about parents’ use of drugs and alcohol has increased by 66% since the start of the pandemic, according to new NSPCC data.


Concerns about drug and alcohol use 'soar since start of pandemic' - Newry Times - Newry headlines


The Helpline provides adults with a place they can get advice and support, share their concerns about a child or get general information about child protection.

There are two bases in the UK – one of them is in Belfast and it operates 365 days per year to protect children in Northern Ireland and across the rest of the UK.



In the period before the first national lockdown (6 Jan – 22 Mar 2020), there was an average of 709 contacts a month from adults worried a child was being placed at risk by their parent or carer’s use of drink and/or drugs.

In the ten months since then (1 Apr – 31 Jan 2021) this increased to an average of 1,178 contacts a month, with a record 1,369 in October alone.

In total, there were 11,784 contacts – the equivalent of more than 38 a day.

Many of these were so serious they had to be reported to external agencies such as the police and children’s services.

It comes as this week marks Children of Alcoholics Week to raise awareness of children affected by parental alcohol problems.


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Parental substance misuse is the misuse of drugs and/or alcohol by a parent or carer.

This includes adults who consume harmful amounts of alcohol, are dependent on alcohol, use prescription drugs excessively or are using illegal drugs, any of which impacts their ability to care for a child.

Living in a household where a parent or carer misuses substances does not necessarily mean a child will experience abuse, but it can make it more difficult for parents to provide safe and consistent care and this can lead to abuse or neglect.

It can also have a serious impact on children’s emotional well-being.

Due to the pandemic, children are much more immersed in the problems they are facing at home.



Schools have stayed open for vulnerable children and those of key workers but many remain at home meaning there is no escape for those living with parental substance misuse.

Some of the signs to look out for that show families might be struggling with parental substance misuse during the lockdown and need support include:

 – parents may be visually under the influence of alcohol or drugs over video chat or in public

 – a change in the parent’s behaviour as they may have difficulty controlling their emotions or act irrationally or unpredictably

 – a child may become withdrawn or develop behavioural, emotional or mental health problems

 – aggressive or repeated shouting at home

 – children may have taken on the responsibility of caring for their parents or siblings

 – children looking dirty or not changing their clothes



Joanne McDonnell, NSPCC Helpline Northern Ireland Service Head, explained, “Parental substance misuse can have a seriously detrimental impact on the whole family.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have made things worse for families affected by addiction.

“At the NSPCC helpline in Northern Ireland, we’ve not only seen a rise in contacts and referrals from across the UK but we’re also seeing families who weren’t previously known to children’s services requiring help and support for substance misuse.

“The pressures on families at the moment are unprecedented and it is no surprise that we are hearing that parents and carers are struggling with substance misuse.”

She added, “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.”

The NSPCC is calling on anyone who is concerned a child is at risk due to parental substance misuse to contact their helpline.



Trained professionals can offer advice to make sure everyone in the family receives the support they need – both parents and children.

If anyone is concerned about their own drug or alcohol intake is getting beyond their control and that it is affecting their family, support can be accessed by contacting the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit to find your nearest online support group.


Keep up to date with all the latest Northern Ireland Coronavirus / Covid-19 news HERE


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Posted by on Feb 25 2021. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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