Alcohol harm and associated costs in general and children of households with alcohol problems and their needs and their predicament in particular were discussed in the UK Parliament with a purpose to find more effective and sustainable support going forward…

Support for children of alcoholics was on the agenda in the House of Commons, Westminster Hall, when Members of Parliament discussed a motion tabled earlier by Liam Byrne, Labour MP.

The motion had six sponsors from four political parties and read:

That this House notes that alcohol harm costs the UK £21 billion a year; further notes that alcohol misuse is now Britain’s third biggest health problem after smoking and obesity, costing the NHS alone £3.5 billion a year; recognises that just one in 20 dependent drinkers receives treatment; believes that all too often the 2.6 million children of hazardous drinkers are forgotten; notes that children of hazardous drinkers suffer a range of mental health issues, are more likely to consider suicide, are more prone to eating disorders and are far more likely than most to become alcoholics themselves; and calls on the Government to bring in a strategy to help children of alcoholics, specifying concrete steps by which public agencies should identify children of alcoholics in order to connect them with sources of support and to undertake a public information campaign aimed at parents who are hazardous drinkers, warning them of the risks to their children’s health and to ensure that the right provision is in place in every part of Britain that will provide treatment to parents seeking help with alcohol dependence.


Introducing the motion, the primary sponsor MP Byrne, held a powerful, moving and memorable speech – also mentioning his own story of living with a dad who was addicted to alcohol:

The numbers of A&E admission is rising in 2/3 of local authority areas. So, [alcohol harm] is not a problem that is going away; this is a problem that is snowballing; this is a problem that is getting worse…”

Alcohol harm [is] the third biggest heath risk…”

Liam Byrne, Labour, MP
  • Children of alcoholics are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder.
  • Children of alcoholics are three times more likely to commit suicide.
  • Children of alcoholics are almost four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves.

In order to normalise this conversation, we have got to organise this conversation.”

Liam Byrne, Labour, MP

To do so, MP Byrne has proposed a ten point plan (in bold letters the three priorities) to get the conversation going:

  1. More government support, including specialised commissioning, to charities like NACOA that provide helplines for children of alcoholics.
  2. Put in charge a government minister with clear ownership of who is going to provide and lead the support policy for children of alcoholics.
  3. Bring forward a specific government plan of action for how to support children of alcoholics.
  4. To compel every public health director to estimate how many children of alcoholics are living locally in British municipalities
  5. To institute local action plans to ensure that children of alcoholics can be better identified and receive better help.
    To equip frontline professionals to take proactive steps to identify children of alcoholics and ensure that they re equipped to counsel CoAs and to provide them with help.
  6. Ensure the right investments in treatment services “up and down the land.”
    The government to publish a national lead table to assess which councils are spending what on alcohol treatment.
    Improve treatment services and provide better treatment coverage for the disease of alcoholism.
  7. Gear up a public information campaign aimed at hazardous alcohol users who are parents so that they understand how their alcohol use might harm their children and were they could get help from.
    Take inspiration from the success of the public smoking campaigns.
  8. Change the law, in particular the 1933 Act, and make it illegal for children under the age of 16 to consume alcohol at home.
  9. Introduce the Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol, not only in Scotland but also in the rest of the United Kingdom.
  10. Conduct more research into the scale of this problem.

For further reading about children of households with alcohol problems

Supporting children of households with alcohol problems

Blog post by Maik Dünnbier

Supporting Children Of Alcoholics Comprehensively

UK Parliament