Northern Ireland news

'You are not alone': new support for children of alcoholics to help them cope in school and at home

It is estimated that thousands of children are living in families affected by addiction in Northern Ireland
Seanín Graham

SUPPORT for children of alcoholics and drug addicts in Northern Ireland is being enhanced through two new projects backed by the health service and leading charities.

It is estimated that thousands of children across the north are coping with substance mis-use of a parent or carer.

A new website, www.stepstocope.co.uk, has been designed for those between the ages of 11 and 18 who are living in a family affected by addiction or mental health difficulties.

The site has an online self-help intervention which young people can use at their own pace and is easily navigated.

A separate guide for teachers and school staff has also been introduced to help improve their knowledge and skills in identifying and responding to pupils living with addiction.

Research shows that children's resilience can be increased when they have the support of a key person.

'Understanding and Responding to Hidden Harm: 'A Guide for Educational Professionals?' provides ideas shown to be effective in building resilience. The guide can be downloaded from www.stepstocope.co.uk in the practitioners section.

Both resources are being rolled out to coincide with Children of Alcoholics Week and are supported by a Steps to Cope partnership which includes Barnardo's NI, the South Eastern health trust, addiction support charity, Ascert, and the policy organisation, The Addiction and the Family International Network (AFINet).

"Given the amount of time children spend in school, teachers and staff are well placed to identify when children need additional support," said Paul Millar from Barnardo's NI.

"These resources will help equip school staff with the tools to better respond to children, affected by parental substance misuse."

Ed Sipler, health development specialist from the South Eastern health trust said they wanted to find new ways to reach children affected by their parents' drinking, drug taking or mental health problems.

"Many of these young people live with these issues in silence. What we were determined to do was create resources that clearly says to young people 'you are not alone'."

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