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Drinking by Scots parents revealed by young

Twice as many calls are made to ChildLine by young people concerned about their parents’ harmful drinking in Scotland than the rest of the UK.

More than 230 Scottish children called ChildLine with their fears last year, according to a study.

The majority of youngsters reporting concerns about their parents’ drinking also talked about physical abuse and other family problems.

Elaine Chalmers, head of ChildLine in Scotland, said: “Harmful parental drinking can dominate family relationships and affect children’s wellbeing in every aspect of their lives.

“Often children are experiencing problems against a backdrop of family separation and loss, which they frequently

recognise as causing their parents’ drinking to escalate.

“Fear, anxiety and chronic worry about their parents or siblings also have a significant impact on their mental health and wellbeing.”

More than 2000 youngsters in Scotland have contacted ChildLine in the past decade to talk about their parents’ harmful drinking.

At least 230 contacted the help line in 2008/09 – with 87 talking about physical abuse in relation to their parents’ drinking.

By contrast, about 0.1% of children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland called the discuss the issue.

The actual number of calls from Scotland is likely to be higher, as many youngsters do not give their location.

Dr Evelyn Gillan, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), said the greater prevalence of calls in Scotland was line with the rate of alcohol-related deaths, which is twice as high north of the border.

Dr Gillan, co-author of the study, said: “What this study shows is that many of those negatively affected by someone else’s drinking are children, and the direct impact on their lives includes an increased risk of physical violence and abuse, severe emotional distress and neglect.

“What is particularly sad is that many children experience a loss of childhood because they often take on caring responsibilities such as looking after brothers or sisters, and this can prevent children doing normal childhood activities.”

The British Medical Association in Scotland said the study provided further evidence that Scotland’s alcohol problem needs to be tackled.

A spokeswoman said: “This shows we need to take firm action to tackle Scotland’s alcohol problem and that its not just the health of individuals it has consequences for but also children living with parents who are drinking heavily.”

The report by ChildLine and SHAAP recommends better access to safe and confidential places for young people to talk about their problems.

Meanwhile, the number of children reporting sexual abuse by women to ChildLine has more than doubled over the past five years.

New figures show a 132% rise in complaints of female sexual assaults to the helpline in this period, compared with a 27% increase in reports of abuse by men.

Some 2142 children last year told ChildLine they had been sexually abused by a woman – nearly a quarter of all calls where the offender’s gender could be identified.

The disturbing statistics follow the recent high-profile case of nursery worker Vanessa George, who was a member of an internet paedophile ring along with another woman.

Last year ChildLine heard from 1311 children who said they had been sexually assaulted by their own mother,

representing 61% of all calls about abuse by females.

Research for the helpline found that boys were more likely to say they had been abused by a woman (1722 cases) than by a man (1651).

In contrast, girls were more than 10 times likelier to report being abused by a male (4972) than by a female (420).

A total of 2972 children complained that they had been sexually assaulted by their father, 45% of all calls about abuse by men.

Previous research by the NSPCC suggested that women may be responsible for about one in 20 sex offences committed against children.

Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissoner for Children and Young People, said: “I welcome this research in highlighting a very serious problem.

“It reminds us of the need to focus our efforts on those children affected by the alcohol misuse of their parents.

“It’s appropriate that the Government takes all the steps it can to tackle alcohol misuse as a matter of urgency, because the problem impacts many more children than drug misuse does in Scotland.”

source: Herald Scotland

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