More than 70,000 children in England have a parent struggling with alcohol misuse

Last year, our Helpline received an average of six contacts a day from adults with concerns about a child linked to parental alcohol or substance misuse1.


The number of children in England with a parent who misuses alcohol remains consistently high, with more than 70,000 cases being recorded each year since 2019/20.

Last year, 71,580 children were identified through Child in Need assessments as having a parent in this position2. During this same time period, our Childline counselling service delivered 338 counselling sessions to children with concerns on this issue.

"My mum is up and down – sometimes she’s fine and sober but it can quickly change and she becomes worse again… [She] gets abusive when she’s drunk and gets angry at me and my sisters. I don’t like being at home."

- 15-year-old girl speaking to Childline

We’re highlighting this figure at the start of Children of Alcoholics Week, which raises awareness of children affected by a parent’s drinking. The annual campaign, which is led in the UK by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa), aims to shine a light on children struggling alone in silence with this issue.

We urge any adult to speak out if they are concerned about a child so the child and families can be supported.

Signs that families might be experiencing problems due to alcohol misuse include:

  • parents may be visually under the influence of alcohol
  • 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  • a child may become withdrawn or develop behavioural, emotional or mental health problems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.

“Living with a parent who misuses alcohol can leave children feeling isolated, confused, embarrassed and ashamed. The truth is, this is an issue that is often not talked about within a family and attempts are made to hide it. But secrecy makes it difficult for anyone else to notice and provide support, which is why we’re urging adults to look out for the signs and to encourage those impacted by it to speak out and seek help, so in turn children and families can be supported.”

- Kam Thandi, NSPCC Helpline Director

“Imagine a childhood where your life is taken over by your parent’s drink problem. Coming home from school not knowing what you’ll find. Having no friends because you can’t take them home.

Drink and the effects it has on children is one of the great secrets in our society today. That is why during COA Week we sweep everything aside and break the silence, to let these vulnerable young people know they are not alone.”

- Hilary Henriques MBE, Chief Executive of Nacoa UK


  1. 1. In 2022/23, the NSPCC Helpline received 2,137 contacts where parent or adult alcohol or substance abuse was mentioned in relation to neglect – an average of six contacts a day. This figure is based on neglect contacts where alcohol or substance misuse was mentioned.

    Due to changes in how NSPCC Helpline data was recorded in 22/23 for parental alcohol and substance abuse, it is not comparable to 21/22.

  2. 2. A Child in Need Assessment identifies the needs of the child and ensures that families are given the appropriate support to help them safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.

    Last year 71,580 children in England, subject to a Child in Need assessment, were identified as having alcoholic parents.