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.

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

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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