The NSPCC received a record number of contacts from people concerned about the wellbeing of children whose parent was drinking excessively or taking drugs last year.
The children's charity received 10,207 calls and emails last year - on average almost 200 a week - about parental substance misuse, a 30 per cent increase on 2015/16.
In the East Midlands, 732 contacts were referred to local authorities or the police in 2016/17.
The charity said the majority of contacts to the NSPCC Helpline about substance misuse are from members of the public worried that a parent is drinking too much alcohol which in turn is affecting their ability to provide a safe and supportive environment for their children.
In many of these cases other concerns such as neglect and physical and emotional abuse against the child, parental domestic abuse and parental mental health issues are also raised.
One member of the public called the helpline and said: “I’m really worried for the safety of a child living with his parents. There is always heavy smoke lingering around the family home and I regularly see the parents intoxicated with alcohol and drugs. Sometimes I can hear them shouting and screaming profanities at each other whilst the child is in the home. It’s really upsetting.”
More than a third of the children referred to police or local authorities across the UK were aged between one and five, with a further 581 being less than a year old (including unborn children).
To support families where parental substance misuse is present and causing a problem, the NSPCC delivers ‘Parents Under Pressure’ at its Nottingham Service Centre, among other locations in the UK. It is a home-based programme originally designed and tested in Australia.
Together with the University of Warwick, the NSPCC today published an evaluation of ‘Parents Under Pressure’.
The study revealed that those receiving the programme had showed a number of improvements to their behaviour in the family home. Most importantly the risk of child abuse had decreased and had been sustained six months later.
NSPCC East Midlands Head of Service, Sandra McNair, said: “Every child should be able to grow up in a home where they feel safe and supported. The sad fact is that many young people are being deprived of this simple right due to one or both of their parents abusing drink and drugs.
“Adults who are misusing any substance can seek help from effective programmes such as ‘Parents Under Pressure’, for the wellbeing of their whole family. In doing so they will be encouraged to gain a better understanding of themselves and be supported to achieve changes in their lives that will help them meet their children’s needs.”
The NSPCC’s Helpline is available on 0808 800 5000 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.