Alcohol doesn’t just affect grown-ups

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The concept of Dry January and the importance of guarding against the harmful impact of alcohol is receiving more attention than ever before. However sadly, it is not only adults that can feel the effects of alcohol misuse.        

Over the last 12 months, nine year old Ben and his sister Olivia have been receiving the support of a NYAS advocate called Sarah. Sarah worked with both Ben and Olivia when children’s services were alerted to the fact that they were at risk from their mother’s alcohol use. Sarah represented the children during their Initial Child Protection Conference and through two subsequent review conferences. The children were put on a Child in Need Plan which has ensured the children are safeguarded whilst living with their mother.

This is the story Ben shared with his advocate.

My name is Ben and I live with my mum and my three year old sister Olivia. Things were happy until I was about seven.  It had always just been mum, me and Olivia but things were fine. However, when I started junior school things started to go wrong. Mum became more and more worried about money.  She would worry so much. She would worry about not being able to buy milk, bread and ham.  She became more and more unhappy and then she started to drink.

Mummy started to have a nap every day. Sometimes it would be in the morning, sometimes it would be in the afternoon or tea time. I started to worry when mummy wouldn’t wake up. Olivia is still little and would run around the house. Olivia would get upset and I would get scared. We were both sometimes hungry and I didn’t know what to feed Olivia.  Sometimes mummy would sneak out to the shop and leave us alone. Other times, Mummy would fall asleep and forget to pick me up from school.  The school would have to telephone Mum’s cousin who would have to come and pick me up.  Olivia would have been left on her own all afternoon.

The more it happened, the more worried I became and I started to get angry. I started to call the 999 number and ask for help. Mummy had started to hurt herself.  Once a door slammed into mummy and she really hurt her head.  I stopped thinking she was sleeping because she was tired and I realised it was because she was poorly.

After the ambulance men came mummy became really angry with me.  She changed the password on her phone so I couldn’t phone anyone for help anymore. I worried about my mum’s drinking and so did her friends. I would worry about going to school and leaving Olivia behind. Who would look after her if I wasn’t there?

One day I couldn’t wake Mummy up and I was the most scared I had ever been. I ran all the way to my Grandad’s house. It was dark and Grandad lived a long way away. When I got there, I told him I couldn’t wake my mummy up. Grandad took me home and helped me to wake her.

Children’s services became involved and the children were allocated their own advocate. By talking and listening to Ben, Sarah was able to provide Children’s Services with a clear picture of Ben and Oliva’s life. A Child in Need Plan was put together which has enabled both children to remain with their mother but for them both to remain safe.

If you are in a situation like this or you are concerned about a child or young person – please contact the NYAS Freephone number on 0808 808 1001.

Ben’s mother is receiving support for her drinking and has also received guidance on parenting.  She is taking the help offered to her and whilst she does still drink – the situation has improved for both children. Ben has been allocated a special teacher at his school who is aware of the situation. Ben can talk to the teacher with any of his concerns and monitors Ben whilst he is at school. Both children have access to a children’s centre which has ensured both children receive the medical attention they need. Ben and his sister remain under the care of their local children’s services team.