AN INCREASING number of Wigan children are seeking help as parents are too drunk or high on drugs to properly take care of them.
Figures from the charity ChildLine show that, nationally, the number of youngsters it has counselled because their parents were drinking too much or taking drugs more than doubled in the space of a year: from 2,509 in 2011/12 to 5,323 in 2012/13.
Most of the children counselled were 12 to 15 years old, although one in 10 was of primary school age.
Last year ChildLine counsellors at the Manchester base, which covers the Wigan area, carried out 701 counselling sessions with children and young people via telephone, online chat and email who were concerned about parental drug and alcohol abuse.
Latest figures from Wigan Council show that over the past 12 months a massive 653 households have received help from the local authority through the Government’s Troubled Families Programme to sort out often chaotic lifestyles dogged by abuse, truancy, long-term unemployment drugs and crime.
Only last year that figure stood at just 375 families.
The scheme defines “troubled families” as those that have their own problems but also cause problems to the community around them, and it aims to improve the life chances of children in these households.
Health statistics from the council also show that more than a quarter of the borough’s adult population (anyone over the age of 16) are drinking alcohol at levels that risk damaging their health.
Kemi Olubodun, who is ChildLine’s service manager in Manchester, said: “These shocking ChildLine statistics are sadly only one small piece of the jigsaw.
“It’s heart-breaking that so many young people struggle alone because they do not know where to go for help or are unsure of what might happen if they speak to someone.
“They may fear being taken away from their families by social services and put into care and believe that they are protecting their family by keeping quiet.
“Some children tell us their parents are under stress and it may be that they are using drink and drugs to blot out worries about jobs, money or housing issues.
“But whatever the reasons behind the rise, it’s vital that anyone who knows a parent with drink or drug problems takes action to get that family help so that their children are protected.”
Children can seek help by contacting ChildLine on 0800 1111 or on childline.org.uk.
Adults with concerns about a child are urged to call the NSPCC’s helpline on 0808 800 5000.