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Drunk parents have disastrous impacts on children

Drunk parents have disastrous impacts on children

Parents who drink too much can have a disastrous impact on their children, from neglecting basic needs to causing life-long physical harm, says Children's Commissioner John Angus.

The Commissioner is pleased ALAC has chosen this as a theme for their advertising campaign 'Ease up on the drink'. The latest advert in the series screened last night and depicts a father who drinks to excess and is then unable to spend time with his son the following day.

"It's easy to think the only way young people are harmed by alcohol is by getting drunk and causing mayhem on Courtney Place or other drinking spots.

But the impact of alcohol on children and young people is a lot more pervasive and complex than that.

"From being neglected and left in a car by a parent at a party, to suffering physical abuse from a parent who has drunk too much, the impacts are far reaching and potentially disastrous.

"Parents' alcohol abuse can lead to physical abuse, sexual abuse and a failure to keep children safe from harm. It can cause permanent scars on a child's life, and sadly in some cases, it can have a lethal impact.

"For example, research by the New Zealand Fire Service found that alcohol was a direct or indirect factor in nearly half (44 per cent) of residential fire deaths between 1997 and 2003 Some of those who died were innocent children, at the mercy of caregivers in the house who had been drinking prior to the fire.

"Violence in families is also associated with the abuse of alcohol. A 2001 survey found that 30 per cent of victims of intimate partner abuse thought their partner was affected by alcohol or drugs during the incident. Again, innocent children were likely to have witnessed or been subject to violence in these cases.

"But as seen in the ALAC advert, there are also more subtle ways alcohol hurts children. A father who is unable to go to his child's football game because he has a hangover is neglecting the fundamental emotional needs of that child.

"Talking about alcohol misuse within families is a good start, and I applaud ALAC for spreading the message that is ok to tell a family member that you're worried about their drinking.

"However, I would like to see more done to make parents accountable for their alcohol abuse. As I outlined in my submission to the Law Commission on the reform of New Zealand's liquor laws, I want to see more emphasis on treatment options for parents with alcohol problems and increased penalties for serious breaches of the liquor laws where there has been an impact on children.

"My Young People¹s Reference Group (YPRG) would also like to see parents made more accountable for the devastating impact their drinking has on their children. They've suggested that an increase in tax on alcohol could be put back into education and treatment options for parents and children."


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