Putting the spotlight on families facing adversity

We know that substance misuse, domestic abuse and mental health problems are significant risk factors for child abuse and neglect. We also know that getting the right help for children and families early on can make a big difference.

Where parents face these types of issues, it can be difficult for them to deal with family life and can put significant pressure on relationships. For the child, their experiences of growing up in this environment can have a deep and long-lasting impact on their physical and emotional development.

We can change that. With early intervention and the right support for parents we can change these children’s lives and help families live happily together.

We're sharing our learning about what works for families facing adversity and how we’re putting evidence into practice to help reach more children.Last week we focussed on sharing what works to help families facing substance misuse. This week we’ll share the learning from the services we’ve ‘scaled up’, helping us to understand more about how to implement services in the real world.

How widespread is parental substance misuse?

We’re aware that substance misuse is prevalent in families, but what are the facts?

  • Up to 3.5 million children in the UK live in families where there is alcohol misuse.1
  • Around half of all reviews into cases in the UK where children have died or been seriously harmed because of abuse or neglect involved parental substance misuse.2
  • In 2016/17, the NSPCC Helpline received 10,207 contacts from adults who were concerned about a child or children affected by parental alcohol and substance misuse.
  • In 2016/17, Childine delivered 1,397 counselling sessions to children and young people worried about parental substance misuse.

Read more about parental substance misuse and the impact it has on children.

Getting families the right support

Getting parents the right help and support as early as possible in their child’s life is crucial in enabling them to develop healthy family relationships. That’s why we’ve developed our Parents Under Pressure™ programme.

Parents Under Pressure™ works with families experiencing substance misuse to help reduce the risk of child abuse and improve child development. We help mums and dads develop effective methods of managing their emotional regulation and supporting their baby’s development.

We've evaluated our service to understand what works to reduce the risk of child abuse amongst families facing substance misuse and help keep their recovery on track. 

Read our latest evaluations of Parents Under Pressure™

Parents Under Pressure™: Randomised Controlled Trial

We've worked with the University of Warwick to evaluate the service using a rigorous randomised controlled trial (RCT).

Download the report

Parents Under Pressure™: an evaluation

We conducted a further evaluation of Parents Under Pressure™ which aimed to understand better the impact of the programme on parents and their child.

Read the report

Sharing our learning

Supporting children who live with parental mental illness

Diane Hunter discusses how the learning from an evaluation of Family SMILES helped inform the development of a new service, Young SMILES, an intervention for children living with parental mental illness. 

Learn more

Improving the parenting of those who are substance dependent

Professor Jane Barlow discusses the findings of a study that aimed to improve outcomes for substance-dependent parents of very young children.

Read our blog

Supporting parents under pressure to get back on track for their children

Creators of Parents Under Pressure™ and colleagues from our Children’s Services team, discuss the ways we can help to improve the situation of families experiencing substance misuse.

Read more

Learning from services that work

We want to reach more children with services that work. That’s why we are working closely with partner organisations, supporting them to adopt the services that we’ve been developing, delivering and testing in our service centres. We're calling this "scale up".

It’s important that our services are easy for partner organisations to adopt. To learn more about what makes a scale up successful, we’ve been evaluating how the implementation of our services by partner organisations has gone.

Graded Care Profile 2

A tool for professionals to help them to measure the quality of care given to a child. 

Read our evaluation

Baby Steps

A perinatal programme that helps parents to cope with the pressures of a new baby.

Read our evaluation

Reunification Practice Framework

Practical guidance and tools for practitioners working with families with children returning home from care. 

Read our evaluation

What has evaluation told us about scale-up?

The services we have dispersed are highly valued

We must prepare the ground for the uptake of services

Certain strategies can help services take root

We must pro-actively support services if they are to flourish

It takes time for services to thrive


Photographs courtesy of Tom Hull. Children pictured are models.

Find out more

Parental substance misuse

How to support children living with parents who misuse alcohol and drugs.

Read more

Deliver our services in your area

Find out how our 'scale up' unit supports organisations to deliver our evidence-based services.

Learn more

30% rise in helpline contacts about parental substance misuse

Last year there was a major rise in contacts to the helpline from people worried about child safety due to parental substance misuse. 

Find out more

Parents Under Pressure™

Learn how we're improving parenting in families with drug or alcohol problems.

About this service