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Home > Hidden harm: addictions in the family.

Webb, Anne Marie and Nellis, Brendan (2010) Hidden harm: addictions in the family. Belfast: Barnardo's Northern Ireland. Policy and practice briefing no 13.

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Substance misuse impacts across communities in Northern Ireland and the term ‘hidden harm’ is commonly used to describe parental/carer substance misuse and its effect on children and other family members. A family-focused approach recognising the interdependency of individual family members and considering the welfare of children is increasingly highlighted at government policy level.

Having previously co-delivered an event to raise awareness about substance misuse in families (Behind Closed Doors, 2008), Barnardo’s NI jointly hosted a further ‘hidden harm’ conference in March 2010, entitled Addictions in the Family. This interactive event in partnership with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and the Public Health Agency (PHA) presented current policy and practice developments, including implementation of the Regional Hidden Harm Action Plan (PHA/HSCB, 2009).

A range of leading policymakers, researchers and practitioners addressed 150 delegates working across sectors in areas where parental substance misuse impacts on children and families. Throughout the day a series of themed group discussions also explored:
• how collective ownership of the Hidden Harm Action Plan can be achieved
• what best helps support children and young people in ‘hidden harm’ families
• how addiction services and agencies can be supported to adopt a more family-focused approach.

Barnardo’s practice experience and the key issues highlighted at the conference have informed this briefing and its recommendations for policy and practice.


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