Over 3,000 children in Tallaght at risk from exposure to parental substance abuse

By Mary Dennehy

MORE than 3,000 children living in Tallaght are at risk of being seriously affected by parental substance misuse in the home, a new body of research has revealed.

Commissioned by the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force and funded by Barnardos, the new research estimates the number of children of parents who misuse substances, including alcohol – with the research finding that as many as 15 per cent of children in the local community are at risk of being impacted on by illegal drug misuse.

Alcohol and Drugs Seminar 13 06042017

In addition, the research, called Next Generation, revealed that almost one child is known to be potentially affected for every problem drug-user.

The research, undertaken by Karen Galligan and Catherine Comiskey of Trinity College, was carried out in line with Tallaght being a current learning site for the development of hidden harm practice guidelines, with work currently underway to identify and support children at risk.

Speaking on the issue of hidden harm, Robert Dunne, Manager of the Barnardos Lorien Child and Family Service, which is based in MacUilliam, said: “It’s not okay for the harm caused to children by parental substance misuse to be hidden and that every effort is not made to break the cycle of intergenerational substance misuse.

“To do otherwise is to communicate to children in this situation that their experience, their burden, is of no importance.

“Substance misuse and addiction is so prevalent in Ireland, and is an aspect of our lives that is shrouded in secrecy and buried under what can be a crushing amount of guilt and shame.”

He added: “This research puts into numbers the potential harm for children within our community.

“They are significant figures and now we have to look behind the numbers to the individual stories

“The damage can be quite catastrophic for some of these children but hopefully this research is the first step in addressing the needs of these kids by discovering how many need support and getting services put in place.

“This research is good news for children that need services and the Tallaght Drugs and Alcohol Task Force is really committed to this and in trying to break the cycle of intergeneration substance abuse.”

According to the research, there are 751 children locally whose parents are known to be attending services in Tallaght.

However, research suggests that there may be four to six times the number of children affected by parental substance misuse not linked to services, with these children representing hidden harm.

The research calculates that 3,033 or 15 per cent of children living in the area are potentially at risk, with the study also predicting that between 2,870 and 7,382 children in the area are potentially impacted on by alcohol dependency.

According to the research, the consequences for these children are “variable but often very damaging” and include inadequate healthcare, malnutrition, early substance misuse, offending behaviour, poor educational attainment and a wide range of emotional, cognitive, behavioural and other psychological problems.

However, launched on Wednesday in Tallaght Stadium, during an event that was attended by the Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne TD, the Next Generation Research was seen as a positive step forward in identifying children at risk and providing tailored supports and services.

The family-focused research, which will inform the National Steering Group on Hidden Harm, will now be used by TDATF in the area of service provision, achieving positive outcomes for local children and families and securing funding – alongside calling for the needs of children and families with parental misuse issues being prioritised at a local and national level.

Grace Hill, co-ordinator of the TDATF, said: “We already knew that there was a serious issue around hidden harm in our communities but these staggering figures have confirmed our worst fears.

“However, the research is positive in that it validates the work that we have done around this since 2014 while very much saying that we need to be doing more.

“We will be working to reach more children and finding ways to do that.”

Visit www.tallaghtdatf.ie for more information or for a full list of local services.

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