Working together to support disabled parents

Case 5: Couple with alcohol-related problems

Without an inter-agency protocol in place

A father with a school-age son has an alcohol dependency problem. When drunk he has more than once beaten the boy's mother, although the son has not been involved. The mother too drinks to problem levels. The last time the police were called they involved children's social services who said that if there was any further violence between the parents the child may be removed from home. The mother and her son are very scared that they will be separated and so they go to great lengths to hide further examples of domestic abuse.

The response of the authorities has had the effect of driving the problem underground but the family's difficulties remain unresolved.

With an inter-agency protocol in place

When the domestic violence is reported the police involve children's social services who in turn involve the community alcohol team. A referral is made to a voluntary organisation in the area that specialises in supporting families affected by alcohol-related difficulties. Both attend one-to-one counselling at the support organisation. The mother also joins a peer support group for mothers with alcohol-related problems, which is held at the local Sure Start facility.

Following a visit to the support group from a representative from a local Access to Higher Education Scheme, the mother and another mother start a college course in computing. The father is also given the option of counselling but feels that he is not yet able to take this up. In the meantime, he does attend a family conference facilitated by the voluntary support organisation. The mother and son decide to relocate in a council flat separate from the father unless and until he agrees to attend a rehabilitation programme. The family are aware that the voluntary organisation is keeping the community alcohol team abreast of developments and that children's social services will be contacted if this becomes necessary at any point.

For the moment the family’s difficulties have been resolved safely. At the same time there are plans in place which will help to prevent recurrence of the violence and build the resilience of individual members of the family. The child's welfare and the goal of building the resilience of individual family members are paramount.