Our January blog looks ahead to opportunities for awareness and action in 2017.

Happy new year!

Traditionally a time for new beginnings, new leaves and quite a few new optimistic gym memberships.

Many people will be thinking of giving up alcohol for the month, perhaps inspired by the almost new tradition of Dry January.

The campaign challenges people to go 31 days without a drink; but for many children and young people who live in families where alcohol is part of daily life, the thought of a month without a parent drinking is unimaginable.

However, as we begin 2017, recognition of the year-round hidden problem is increasing as more and more people come forward to speak about their experience of growing up with alcohol in the family.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth is the latest high profile figure to urge action on drinking as he revealed how childhood memories have inspired him to fight for more help for families of alcoholics.

The MP for Leicester South spoke to The Guardian about his experiences growing up with an alcoholic father:

“I remember him falling over when he picked me up at the school gates and we’d get home and there would be nothing in the fridge other than bottles of wine – he drank cheap horrible bottles of white wine … and cans of lager and Stone’s bitter.

“When I got to 11 or 12 then I was effectively looking after him on the weekends because he was drunk all weekend,” he said, pausing before adding: “And eventually he died.”

The MP said he had also inspired by the work of Liam Byrne and the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Children of Alcoholics and felt he wanted to make the issue a priority in 2017.

A manifesto for Children of Alcoholics is currently being developed by the APPG and Jo Manning, national lead for substance misuse at The Children's Society has presented evidence to the group. The manifesto is due to be launched this year and national recognition of the issue will hopefully continue to gather steam.

More awareness of the lives of young people impacted by caring responsibilities – including those affected by parental substance misuse – is also the aim of January’s Young Carer Awareness Day.

The day, on January 26, is organised by the Carer’s Trust who want it to be a day where everyone recognises the challenges that young carers face.

In his interview, Jonathan Ashwood said growing up caring for his father made him “not damaged but determined.”

And this year we have hope that a lot of determined people – be they professionals, policy makers or those who have personal experience – will find more ways to work together to minimise the damage.

Caroline Horst, Development worker, Stars National Initiative.

 

Read our previous blogs:

All 2016 blogs

All 2015 blogs

December 2014 blog