Substance use or misuse (legal or illegal drug usage and/or alcohol consumption) by parents and/or carers does NOT on its own automatically indicate that children are at risk of abuse or neglect, although it is essential that practitioners recognise that this is a group for whom the potential associated risks are high. However, where there are concerns or suspicions that the child may be suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm, a consultation must be made to ChECS.
In cases where a child or children is not thought to be suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm, an Early Help Assessment should be carried out by a professional working with the family, and relevant action taken accordingly
A child may be considered to be at greater risk of harm where substance use is uncontrolled and chaotic, if the parent/carer alternates between states of severe intoxication and periods of withdrawal, especially if substances are mixed i.e. combinations of different drug and alcohol combined with drugs.
Research indicates that the risk factors for the safety and welfare of the child may be heightened during periods of withdrawal - with parents/carers exhibiting a reduced responsiveness to the child's needs and increased levels of anxiety relative to themselves as individuals.
There is a body of evidence which practitioners can look at and use in their assessments: