Families that have alcohol and mental health problems: a template for partnership working

Values and principles

Collaborative working in services for children where parents have mental health or alcohol problems draws on several developments in social care, which are briefly discussed below.

In summary, the team found some key principles that underpin the template protocol. The welfare of children is always paramount. They must always be protected from actual or likely significant harm. All workers, including those who provide services for adults, have a duty of care and responsibility to identify children who may be at risk and to act appropriately. Parents want to do their best to care for their children. It is government policy to promote the wellbeing of children through timely and appropriate support.


Workers from all agencies, including those who work with adults, have a responsibility to identify individuals with mental health and alcohol problems who are parents. They should consult with parents about the help and services they need to enable them to care for their children. Any areas of concern and the involvement of children and families services should be discussed fully with the parents, providing that this does not compromise the safety of the child.

Lack of consensus about information sharing and confidentiality still inhibits collaboration between professionals, agencies and families. Authoritative guidance is given in: Working Together to Safeguard Children (1999) paragraphs 7.27 to 7.46. Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need (2000) paragraphs 346-357.