Drug agencies should link with specialist family planning services
to advise on and administer long-acting contraceptive injections
and other treatments, a new government report recommends.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs’ report estimates that
200,000-300,000 children in England and Wales – 2-3 per cent of
under-16s – have one or both parents with serious drugs problems.
In Scotland the estimated figure soars to between 41,000 and 59,000
– equivalent to 4-6 per cent of under-16s.
The council warns that children of problem drug users may be
exposed to additional hazards, including poverty, physical abuse or
neglect and other inappropriate parenting practices, adding that
“few will escape entirely unharmed”.
Social services agencies which responded to the council’s survey
reported that drug or alcohol abuse among parents featured in a
quarter of cases of those placed on the child protection register
in the previous year.
The council recommends that all family doctors who have problem
drug users as patients take steps to ensure they have access to
appropriate contraceptive and family planning advice and
management, including access to emergency contraception and
abortion services. Methadone clinics and needle exchanges should
offer specialist family planning services to advise on options for
The council is also calling for closer working between social
services, maternity services and drug agencies. It recommends that
the four new social care councils in the UK ensure that all social
care workers receive pre-qualification and in-service training
which addresses the potential harm to children of parental
substance abuse and steps to reduce it.
The Children’s Society welcomed the report but emphasised the
importance of looking out for children of parents who abuse alcohol
as well as those of parents who abuse drugs.
Policy and practice manager Kathy Evans said: “Agencies desperately
need dedicated children’s services which offer help to deal with
the impact of their parent’s problems, regardless of the substance
their parent uses, whether they live with that parent, and whatever
their own behaviour and abilities.”
– Go to www.drugs.gov.uk