‘Protecting from Hidden Harm’

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Agreeing actions to tackle the significant harm many children and young people experience due to parental drug and alcohol misuse was the focus of the ‘Impact: Substance Misuse in the Family’ conference was held in Cookstown by Breakthru.

The conference brought together health and social care practitioners, support organisations and key stakeholders, including Koulla Yiasouma the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, to consider how to protect children and young people from Hidden Harm.

Hidden harm describes the situation of many children and young people affected by parental alcohol and drug misuse. Many suffer in silence and don’t know where to turn for help.  Others do not realise they are living with it.  There may be a deep and long-lasting impact on children and young people which may not fully emerge until young adulthood and beyond.

The conference also heard about the impact Breakthru’s Drug Intervention and Community Education (DICE) project, funded by Big Lottery Fund, is having in supporting young people aged 8-21, who are care experienced and have been affected by parental alcohol or drug misuse. Bernadette McHugh, Breakthru Service Manager, highlighted how the DICE project has been critical for so many young people:

‘DICE has provided focused support to help these young people address Hidden Harm during particularly challenging periods of their life.  Indeed, for every £1 invested in the DICE project £6 of social value has been created.’

Delegates acknowledged that Hidden Harm remains a significant issue across Northern Ireland. There was agreement that to successfully tackle Hidden Harm there must be a greater focus on awareness, training, education and a joined-up approach in the provision of support services. Projects such as DICE provide a clear insight into what can be done to effectively tackle Hidden Harm and it is essential the positive contribution these projects provide are recognised and shared.