Good Practice Guidance for working with Children and Families affected by Substance Misuse
The Scottish Executive's vision for Scotland's children is: 'A Scotland in which every child matters, where every child, regardless of his or her family background, has the best possible start in life'.
For Scotland's Children, published in 2001, gave advice on how better to integrate children's services.
The Report of the Child Protection Audit and Review 2002, aims to improve services for children who experience abuse or neglect. Both of these important Scottish Executive reports highlight the children of parents who misuse alcohol and/or drugs as a significant 'at risk' group. The Child Protection Review states:
"The problems of neglect and problem drug or alcohol use are often related, particularly where household finances are spent on drink or drugs, or the behaviour of the parents or their associates impact on the child's welfare. Some problems are intergenerational, particularly neglect. We have concerns about the future well being of a large number of children who are now being born into drug misusing families, and ensuring their better protection must be a priority."
It is vital that Drug/Alcohol Action Teams, Child Protection Committees and agencies involved in preparing Children's Services Plans ensure that all agencies agree how they will work together to protect children and support families. Managers must ensure staff in children and adult services in the statutory, voluntary and private sectors are equipped to identify concerns and take appropriate action to protect children. We must make sure that these vulnerable children and young people do not fall through the net.
Tackling substance misuse is a high priority for the people of Scotland and the Scottish Executive. This needs to be developed against the backdrop of current national strategies namely: Tackling Drugs in Scotland: Action in Partnership and the Plan for Action on Alcohol Problems. The national drugs strategy provides the framework for reducing substance misuse amongst young people and helping communities resist drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour. Challenging targets have now been set for improvement. The alcohol strategy, whilst acknowledging the many positive aspects of alcohol within Scotland, focuses on alcohol related harm and sets out a comprehensive plan to change attitudes and behaviour and improve support and treatment services.
Action is underway to stifle the availability of drugs, to improve drug users' access to treatment and rehabilitation and to strengthen drugs education in schools, as well as reducing binge drinking and harmful drinking by children and young people. Nevertheless, there is more to be done. Professionals in specialist drug- and alcohol-related services frequently feel ill-equipped to manage the often complex needs of both parents and their children and have focused on adults. Similarly, staff in children's services have lacked the knowledge, skills and confidence to address parents' substance problems (alcohol and drugs) even when these are clearly affecting their children.
This guidance, coupled with the resources already provided by the Executive through initiatives such as the Changing Children's Services Fund, Social Inclusion Partnerships and Surestart, allied to training offered to DAT members and to managers and staff of services by STRADA (Scottish Training on Drugs and Alcohol), will do much to help improve the lives of children affected by parental substance misuse.
The Scottish Executive will monitor progress through Child Protection Committees' annual reports, Drug/Alcohol Action Teams Corporate Action Plans and Children's Services Plans; through the Social Work Services Inspectorate Annual Report process, and in due course, through the multi-disciplinary inspection system for child protection services.
For too long the needs and welfare of children in families affected by substance misuse have been overlooked. We must now concentrate our efforts on helping these children.
Cathy Jamieson, MSP
Minister for Education
and Young People
Hugh Henry, MSP
Mary Mulligan, MSP
Depute Minister for
Health and Community Care