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National Treatment Agency issues guide to safeguarding children affected by substance misuse

A third of drug addicts or problem drinkers in treatment have childcare responsibilities and the lives of these children are much improved when providers and children’s services get together early on to ensure the whole family gets the support it may need.

A new practical guide issued by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) says those responsible for drink and drug treatment must take a wider, more preventative approach, identifying early on when families need help as well as protecting children from neglect and harm.

The guide also calls on children and family services to view treatment for parents as a way of improving life for the whole family and to get involved when problems are first identified, ensuring these are dealt with before a crisis point is reached.

Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Delivery for the NTA, said:

“In many ways, having a parent in drug or alcohol treatment protects the child because their mother or father is more motivated to get better, stabilise their lives and seek support.

“The danger is, as the Munro Review pointed out, that children are too often ‘invisible’ to adult front line services, including those dealing with substance misuse, which tend to focus on the person in front of them.”

The guide draws on existing guidelines and makes new recommendations on how those seeking treatment are assessed and when and how children and families services should be involved. It offers clear advice to managers and commissioners on partnership working to identify, assess, refer, support and treat adults with the aim of protecting any children involved and improving their outcomes.

Supporting Information for the Development of Joint Local Protocols between Drug and Alcohol Partnerships, Children and Family Services was supported by the Department for Education and is available on the NTA website at www.nta.nhs.uk