First Minister pressed to set up fund to help children of alcoholics

15 June 2018, 05:25

alcoholic drink

Labour has challenged the First Minister to set up a dedicated fund to help children of alcoholics after a £6 million funding pot was announced to help these vulnerable youngsters in England.

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth made the plea after visiting a Scottish charity that aims to help children and families affected by alcohol abuse.

It is thought around 51,000 children across Scotland are living with a parent with a drink problem.

At Westminster, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced £6 million of funding in April to help the estimated 200,000 children with alcoholic parents get support and advice.

Mr Ashworth, who has spoken out about his father's alcoholism, urged the Scottish Government to put "similar levels of support" in place.

The shadow health secretary teamed up with Scottish Labour communities spokeswoman Monica Lennon - whose father also struggled with alcohol - on a visit to the Blameless charity in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire.

It works with children and families of those affected by alcohol, with Ms Lennon describing the project as "giving children a chance to live their life again, to get their childhood back".

Blameless trustee and Hamilton Academical FC chief executive Colin McGowan said the charity works with families caught up in the shadow of addiction and tries to direct the addict towards 12-step recovery programmes.

The organisation also arranges family events to help children and their parents re-bond as a family unit, he said.

Mr Ashworth hailed it as a "phenomenal project".

He said: "I've been so impressed with what I have seen here today. This is the sort of project that the Scottish Government should be supporting and investing in, because it's about the future of Scotland, the future of the nation, it is investing in children and bringing families back together.

"I've spoken out about my own background, growing up with an alcoholic father, and my father effectively drank himself to death in the end.

"Through speaking out in my role in England I've managed to persuade the UK Government to take the issue of alcoholism and its impact on children and families much more seriously.

"They've now announced they are putting some money aside that projects like Blameless in England can bid for.

"If a Tory government can respond in the way it has done - and it's rare for me to say anything nice about a Tory government - and listen to the point I was making as shadow health secretary then surely we need similar levels of support in Scotland."

He added: "Charities and projects like Blameless need support, they don't just need nice letters, they need support and investment because the families and children need it and deserve it."

Ms Lennon added: "If I could say one thing it would be to ask Nicola Sturgeon to come here to Hamilton to visit Blameless because the Scottish Government is working on its alcohol and drug strategy right now, it is going to be published very, very soon and for that work to be completed without the government engaging with a charity like Blameless would be such a missed opportunity."

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: "We're committed to improving outcomes for children affected by parental substance misuse, as those children are among the most vulnerable in society and require particular care and support.

"That is why we give £600,000 per year to the Corra Foundation, who support Scottish voluntary organisations, to deliver vital on-the-ground support largely to children and families across Scotland affected by substance and alcohol misuse.

"Our alcohol and drug treatment strategy is currently being refreshed this year and this will include a stronger focus on families and children affected by parental substance misuse."