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5.2 Alcohol Misusing Parents/Carers


Chapter 1: Assessing need and providing help, Working Together to Safeguard Children

Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, The Home Office

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, Drink Aware UK


Safeguarding Children Living with Substance Using Parents/Carers - to follow

Blackburn with Darwen Triage Assessment Tool

Blackburn with Darwen Screening and Referral for Triage Form Substance Misuse

Blackburn with Darwen Comprehensive Assessment


Drug Misusing Parents/Carers Procedure


In November 2013, this chapter was updated in line with Working Together to Safeguard Children.


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  Alcohol Use in Pregnancy
  The Child
  Assessment and Initial Child Protection Conference

Alcohol Use in Pregnancy

  1. It has been suggested that that foetal alcohol syndrome is the biggest cause of non-genetic learning disability in the Western world and is the only one that is 100% preventable (McNamara, ibid).

    "Not every child affected by prenatal alcohol exposure will experience severe learning disability, but learning disabilities are common... The primary... damage that alcohol exposure causes is to the central nervous system... it is important to emphasise that little is known about factors determining whether a child will develop alcohol-related problems, or how significant these will be. There is no cut off point that indicates that a specific amount of alcohol at a specific time will create certain types of problems, and less will not... mothers who maintain adequate nutrition even though drinking may give birth to children less severely affected than mother's who have poor nutrition".
    - Foetal Alcohol Syndrome website.

The Child

  1. The effects on children of the misuse of alcohol by one or both parents or carers are complex and may vary in time, which is why a thorough assessment of needs and risk of harm is important. In some cases the misuse of alcohol may be one factor which, when linked to domestic violence or mental illness, may increase the risks to the child.
  2. The circumstances of children must be carefully assessed not only to consider immediate risks but also the long-term effects on the child of their parents' alcohol misuse.
  3. The children of parents who misuse alcohol are at increased risk of developing alcohol problems themselves and of being separated from their parents. Research demonstrates that children who themselves start drinking at an early age are at greater risk of unwanted sexual encounters and injuries through accidents and fighting.


  1. The health and development of an unborn child may be affected by the parent's alcohol misuse and newborn babies may suffer foetal alcohol syndrome which as a result may interfere with the parent/child bonding process.
  2. Babies may experience a lack of basic health care and poor stimulation and older children may experience poor school attendance, anxiety about their parents' health and taking on a caring role for the parent or siblings.
  3. The parent's practical caring skills can be affected by the misuse in the following ways:
    • Lack of attention to basic physical needs;
    • Lack of control of emotions;
    • Impaired judgement.


  1. Professionals, when confronted with a child in an alcohol-misusing environment must ask themselves "What is it like for a child in this environment?"
  2. The Common Assessment Framework will assist in determining the level of vulnerability of the child and at what point a referral is made to Children's Social Care - see Making a Referral to Children's Social Care.
  3. Information gathered during a Common Assessment should form the basis for the referral including relevant multi agency Referral Forms.

Assessment and Initial Child Protection Conference

  1. Children's Social Care will consider whether it is appropriate to undertake an Single Assessment in relation to all Referrals.
  2. In these circumstances Single Assessments will consider and take account of whether the person concerned is hiding or denying their alcohol misuse; whether they are engaged in any rehabilitation programme; whether they receive support from a partner, family or friends; the impact of the alcohol misuse on the quality of care given to the child and the day-to-day environment of the child as well as the long term impact on the child.
  3. Throughout the assessment process and where it is decided to call a Strategy Discussion, undertake a Section 47 Enquiry and convene an Initial Child Protection Conference, those agencies who have worked with the parents in relation to their alcohol misuse must be asked to contribute and invited to participate in and attend relevant meetings.
  4. If the concerns are in relation to an unborn child, the maternity services must be invited to attend the Strategy Discussion, and involved in any Section 47 Enquiry, Initial Child Protection Conference and, where appropriate, the Core Group.