The Adfam / AVA report into how parents deal with children who use substances and perpetrate abuse, “Between a rock and a hard place”, launched yesterday at the House of Commons, catalogues the shocking experiences of parents and their attempts to access support.
In compiling the report, Adfam and AVA consulted with a total of 88 parents in 9 focus groups around England. These comprised members of family support groups; organisations often run by parents-turned-practitioners who have used their personal experiences of having a drug or alcohol user in the family to provide support for other parents and family members. As such they represent a small section of the population, notably all currently in receipt of help. A wide demographic was noted, though the BME population was very under-represented. Nonetheless, the picture that emerged was very much in line with findings of other studies. I noted particularly the following:
* On average parents had taken 10 years to access the help they needed
* Parents often did not perceive themselves as potential recipients of service as the problem was conceived as a substance misuse one, rather than an abuse issue
* While fathers were looking for practical help, mothers were more interested in emotional support
* There was a huge problem of a lack of coordination between services and also of data protection, so that parents were not informed of the expectations on their children with which they might have offered help
* There was no consistency as to whether agencies were viewed positively or not in their response, other than the family support groups
* The importance of time spent listening – this is long-term work
Recommendations include recognition of CPV at national policy level and the lowering of the age within the standard definition of domestic violence to 16 years. Also the need for training and funding was identified so that existing fora can be better used. Finally, for more work with social services, to develop an understanding that a child can be both victim and perpetrator.
In other settings the call for policy change and recognition may have felt an empty challenge. Meeting as we did in the House of Commons, with MPs present at the launch, and with a strong network of support on the Adfam and AVA boards, this felt a very real and exciting prospect! I was especially thrilled that this had been effected by a report into substance use – an aspect of CPV which has been little explored up to now and sometimes seems sidelined as a less prominent causal factor.
The full report can be accessed on the Adfam website from today.
Also on the website you will find information on how to become a Supporter, with access to training, networking and information resources.