Over a third of child injuries and deaths through neglect are linked to parental drinking, a parliamentary report has found.
Commissioned by a group of MPs for International Children of Alcoholics Week which starts today, the findings reveal the “horrific” impact of alcohol misuse by parents on their children.
It comes as figures from a Freedom of Information investigation show that over half of local authorities do not have a plan to help children of alcoholics.
Liam Byrne, Labour MP and the chair of the All-Party Group for Children of Alcoholics, lost his father to alcoholism in 2015.
He told Sky News: “If you are the child of an alcoholic, you grow up with a kind of silent shame. You are surrounded by stigma.
“You feel very guilty, you can’t really talk to anybody about it, and the result is that children of alcoholics are much more likely to develop problems with mental health.
“They’re much more likely to attempt suicide and they’re much more likely to become alcoholics themselves.
“Unless we break the cycle now to put in place a proper plan to help the children of alcoholics this pain is just going to cascade down the generations for years to come.”
The report, titled Parental Alcohol Misuse and Children, also found that nearly a fifth (18%) of children reported feeling embarrassed by seeing their parent drunk, while 15% said their bedtime routine had been disrupted as a result of their parents drinking.
Children living with alcohol-dependent parents say they feel socially isolated and are reluctant to seek help.
Josh Connolly, 30, from Wootton Bassett, witnessed his father’s death through drinking when he was just nine years old.
He said: “My dad was quite a chaotic drinker. He would regularly drink vast amounts and regularly be a chaotic influence in my life.
“I was present when my dad took an overdose. I was in his flat at the time and he told me he had to take a load of tablets to help him with his drinking.
“He took all of them, and that is when he passed away, so I was there when it happened. So the trauma from that stayed with me for a long, long time.”
He continued: “Because I suppressed it I almost forgot that it happened and what I was left with was traumatic feelings. Feelings of loneliness, guilt, anger and pain.
“But because I suppressed and tried to forget the way that I felt it meant that I was suffering in complete silence.”
Mr Connolly said there is lots of support for alcoholics but not for their relatives, particularly children.
He is backing a campaign calling for proper funding of support services, as well as an anonymous helpline run by the charity National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACAO).
At the moment the helpline receives, on average, 100 calls per day.
“It’s absolutely vital that we raise more awareness, so that we can give these people more support so that they have the same chance as everyone else in their lives,” he said.