30% rise in helpline contacts about parental drug and alcohol misuse

Major increase in contacts last year about child safety due to parental substance misuse.

Boy sitting by window

A record number of people have contacted the NSPCC helpline with concerns about the wellbeing of children who may be affected by parents misusing alcohol or drugs.

Helpline figures from 2016/17 show:

  • we received 10,207 calls and emails – on average almost 200 a week – related to parental substance misuse
  • this is a 30% increase from 2015/16
  • more than a third of children referred to police or local authorities were aged 1-5
  • 581 children referred were less than a year old, including unborn children.

Reasons for calling the helpline

The majority of helpline contacts about substance misuse are from members of the public who are worried that a parent is drinking too much alcohol which is affecting their ability to provide a safe and supportive environment for their children.

In many of these cases, other concerns such as neglect and physical and emotional abuse against the child, parental domestic abuse and parental mental health issues are also raised.

Delivering services to parents in need

We're supporting families who are dealing with parental substance misuse through our Parents Under Pressure™ programme. 

This service teaches parents techniques that help them manage their emotions and behaviours, to help them build their strengths and parenting skills.

Getting parents the right help and support as early as possible is crucial in helping them to develop secure and healthy relationships with their children.

Worried about a child?

Contact our trained helpline counsellors for help, advice and support.

0808 800 5000

Report a concern

John Cameron, Head of Helplines at the NSPCC, said:

“Every child should be able to grow up in a home where they feel safe and supported. The sad fact is that many young people are being deprived of this simple right due to one or both of their parents abusing drink and drugs.

“It is vitally important for the wellbeing of the whole family that adults who are misusing any substance seek help from effective programmes such as Parents Under Pressure. In doing so they will gain a better understanding of themselves and what they need to do to give their child the best start in life.”