Cafcass warning over extent of drug abuse among parents in its caseload

    Substance misuse by parents is dominating the cases dealt with
    by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service,
    practitioners have said, writes Shirley
    Kumar
    .

    Cafcass is warning that the problem is set to get worse and is
    calling for more support from other mainstream services, many of
    which fail to take a preventive approach.

    The organisation wants improved co-ordination between drug and
    alcohol teams, courts and those involved in safeguarding children.
    It is urging support to be offered to children at the same time as
    parents.

    Elizabeth Hall, Cafcass senior regional manager for the North East,
    said in her area just under half of all private and public law
    cases involve actual, or allegations of, parents misusing drugs and
    alcohol. She supervises about 90 practitioners.

    She said: “Some social services departments are good at using
    early intervention when the parents’ problem is not critical.
    This helps prevent some cases coming to court, but in other cases
    the child needs to be moved.”

    Hidden Harm, a report published last year by the Advisory Council
    on the Misuse of Drugs, estimated that 350,000 children were
    victims of parents with drug problems in the UK.

    The council has recommended that the government improves access to
    support services, including addiction treatment and parenting
    skills advice. It also calls for a more integrated approach between
    social workers, health visitors, GPs, teachers, and child and
    adolescent mental health services.

    However, advisory group Drugscope warned that the main carer
    – usually the mother – may be reluctant to access help
    for drug misuse, fearing that social workers will take a
    “knee-jerk reaction” and immediately take the child
    into care.

    It is calling for the development of a more preventive approach, so
    it is not automatically assumed parental drug misuse immediately
    results in child neglect or abuse.

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