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Most parents who drink alcohol or take drugs are able to safely care for and prioritise their children’s needs; however, it is important to recognise that children living with parents with problem alcohol or drug use can be at greater risk of harm or neglect.

Parental drug/alcohol misuse is strongly correlated with family conflict, and with domestic violence and abuse. The risk to children is magnified where both issues co-exist. Harm associated with parental alcohol misuse is not necessarily linked with the level of alcohol consumption. Binge or episodic drinking can cause as much harm as dependent use.

The risks posed to children from parental substance misuse include the following:

  • Exposure to frightening, chaotic or confusing parental behaviour
  • Insecure attachment patterns/inconsistent parenting
  • Neglect of children’s physical needs and routines
  • Inadequate supervision due to emotional and/or physical unavailability
  • Failure to thrive
  • Delayed development/problems with concentration/lack of basic social skills/low self esteem
  • Associated health risks and physical dangers
  • Engaging in a higher level of risk-taking behaviours; drugs, alcohol, offending and sexual behaviours
  • Exposure to substance misusing environments and adults
  • Increased risk of abuse
  • Inappropriate levels of responsibility afforded to children
  • Isolation, secrecy and stigma
  • Impact on family finances

(ACMD: Hidden Harm Report 2003)

Better Lives

If you have concerns about the substance misuse of a parent/carer they can be referred for support from the Better Lives family service. Contact them on 0203 317 7437 or 0794 711 7928, available Monday - Friday, 10am-6pm.

For further information about the Better Lives family service, or for any of the Better Lives substance misuse treatment services within Islington, please refer to the links on the right-hand-side of this page (to access the Better Lives service leaflets and the Better Lives treatment services map).

Substance Misuse and Young People

If you are worried about a child or young person who is misusing alcohol or drugs, or you are a young person and you would like some support to either stop taking drugs and alcohol or reducing use and the impact these have on your life then support is available from Islington Young People’s Drug and Alcohol Service (IYPDAS).

IYPDAS work with young people aged 12 to 21 years old (up to 25 years if Child Looked After (CLA) or experience moderate learning difficulties or Special Educational Needs or are Disabled) and provides a range of targeted interventions with young people including treatment and care plans, group session and 1-1 work. We will meet with the young people and complete an assessment, then agree how we can work together to address the substance misuse concerns. We also provide training to professionals and advice to parents and carers.

To discuss a referral or talk to someone about getting support please email  or call the TYS duty manager on 0207 527 5099.

If you think that a child/young person is in immediate danger you must ring the police on 999.

If you think that a child/young person whose parent/carer has drug and/or alcohol misuse problems is at risk you must make an immediate referral to Islington Children's Services Contact Team on 020 7527 7400 or out of hours 0207 226 0992 (5pm-9am Monday- Friday, Weekends and public holidays). For non-urgent referrals please complete a Request For Service form and email to


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