Parental substance misuse ‘doubles during pandemic’

Parental drug and alcohol misuse in Scotland has more than doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a national charity.

New data suggests the average monthly number of referrals made by the NSPCC helpline about parental substance misuse has increased from 26 during the first three months of last year to 63 between April 1 2020 to January 31 2021.

Over that ten-month period since the initial lockdown, 626 referrals were made in Scotland regarding a parent or carer misusing drugs and/or alcohol.

A referral is made to an external agency, such as the police or local authorities, when concerns have been reported to the charity’s helpline.

Meanwhile across the UK the monthly average number of contacts to the charity’s helpline from people worried about this issue is also 66% higher since April 2020.

The charity is now calling on the Scottish Government to ensure support services take a “whole family approach” when helping people through addiction.

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.

“At the NSPCC helpline we’ve not only seen a rise in contacts and referrals 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 our helpline is hearing that parents and carers are struggling with substance misuse.

“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 Scottish 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.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We know that the pandemic has taken a toll on all of us and each person’s response to the restrictions is different.

“Since the start of the pandemic we have provided additional support to those struggling with alcohol and drug issues, including increased funding for alcohol and drug services to ensure support services remain open and accessible wherever possible.

“While figures published on Tuesday reflect a welcome reduction of total alcohol consumption in Scotland in the early stages of the pandemic, we continue to track and monitor the effect during lockdown.

“We know that lower levels of consumption overall can sometimes mask the alcohol intake of individuals and we are working closely with partners, including Public Health Scotland, in the development of surveillance systems to monitor and respond to emerging issues and ensure that there is support available.

“We agree that a whole family approach, which recognises and supports family members, is vital in helping all of those harmed by alcohol or drug misuse build their own resilience and recover.”