Agencies unite to tackle parental alcohol and drug misuse

A seminar to review work done across Derry/Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh over the past 18 months to tackle ‘Hidden Harm’ - the effect of parental alcohol misuse on children and families - took place in the Waterfoot Hotel last week.

Work to tackle ‘Hidden Harm’, the effect of parental alcohol misuse on children and families, has been ongoing across Derry/Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh for the past 18 months. During last week's seminar to review this work, experts delivering the community-based campaign shared best practice in highlighting and tackling this important issue and launched materials to also tackle parental drug misuse and its impact within families.

The ‘Hidden Harm’ campaign included workshops and road-shows to raise general awareness of the issues surrounding parental substance misuse and the impact on families and children by local services, DIVERT, Community Support and Breakthru. They also give information about local services and support available.

The review seminar gave all agencies involved, including key funders of the campaign - the Public Health Agency (PHA), and NSPCC, a chance to review the outcomes and impact of the campaign to date. It also offered an opportunity to explore the potential for continued joint-working in this important area.

Cathy Mullan, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager PHA, spoke about the PHA’s experience and knowledge, tackling Drug and Alcohol issues in the western area. This included education and prevention programmes, treatment services for chronic drinkers and support for children and young people affected by parental substance misuse. Cathy also recognised the need for partnership working in this area and the particular NSPCC’s expertise in running public information Campaigns.

Margaret Gallagher, from the NSPCC’s Child Protection Awareness and Promotion Team, said: "Our recent Hidden Harm campaigns have been hugely important, both in terms of awareness raising and in fostering vital relationships between agencies and individuals who are committed to tackling the impact of parental substance misuse on children.

"We have reflected on the processes used during the campaign and have presented the outcomes and experiences at the seminar today to help inform future practice on raising public awareness, not only of Hidden Harm but of a range of health and safeguarding issues.

"We have also used today to launch the second wave of materials for the campaign, which will focus on the misuse of illegal drugs and legally prescribed or "over the counter" drugs. These will complement the alcohol-focused materials already developed, and offer substantial materials for the community to use to highlight the impact of drugs and alcohol on families, and in particular children and young people".

Speaking about the event, Brendan Bonner, The Public Health Agency’s Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement in the Western area said: "The Public Health Agency is committed to sharing evidence of best practice with partners in the drive to reduce inequalities in health and well-being and tackle the huge health impacts of drug and alcohol misuse as well as the impact on children and families. 

"This programme will improve public awareness of the issues surrounding substance misuse, raise the profile of the wide range of organisations that provide support to parents, children and young people and crucially, provides advice and guidance on who to contact for help and support."

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