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Home > Silent Voices – manifesto on parental alcohol misuse.

Dillon, Lucy (2020) Silent Voices – manifesto on parental alcohol misuse. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 73, Spring 2020 , pp. 19-20.

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Silent Voices is an initiative of Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI). As Ireland’s national charity for alcohol-related issues, AAI works in the areas of advocacy and policy change, aiming to reduce levels of alcohol harm in Ireland and improve public health, safety, and wellbeing. Silent Voices is focused on the impact of parental alcohol misuse (PAM) on children. It aims to ensure the right supports are available today to children coping with PAM – and those adults dealing with the impact of a childhood trauma in later life.1

Vision and mission

Vision: Its vision is of a society where no person impacted by PAM will be left unsupported.

Mission: It works to achieve this vision by destigmatising the experience of growing up with PAM in Ireland; by increasing a better understanding of the adverse impact of this experience on emotional and mental health; and by working to enhance supports to those who have lived or are now living with PAM.

Silent Voices activities

There are three broad areas of activities outlined for Silent Voices:

1 Raise awareness of the impact of PAM through advocacy, education, and information. Tools used include personal testimony; sharing experiences; and signposting and listing resources.

2 Facilitate a better understanding of PAM by providing information and insight to the following groups: health professionals and practitioners; media; parents; policymakers; people who have contact with children;
and volunteers.

3 Enhance services for children and adult children of PAM by working in partnership to initiate, develop, or contribute to research; fundraising; and development of online information and literature supports.

Manifesto

The Silent Voices manifesto was published in advance of General Election 2020.2 In addition to outlining the research and policy context for the Silent Voices initiative, it contains a set of 13 recommendations across three areas: a whole-Government approach to the issue; services and supports; and training and awareness raising. The recommendations are aimed at Government and set out to address the harm caused by PAM and its impact across the lifespan. Among the recommendations are:

A designated senior Government official should be appointed with responsibility for advising, developing, and planning appropriate policies and services to meet the needs of those who experience harm caused by PAM, and should have the capacity to work across Government Departments.

Because educators are well placed to identify children experiencing hidden harm, the provision of specific training in relation to adverse childhood experiences should be examined at teacher training level and at all levels of professional development – from teachers to principals to education welfare officers.

In addition to existing services, properly funded and resourced supports should be developed for children experiencing PAM. Innovative evidence-based programmes should become more widely available in communities around the country. It should also be ensured that children, as an individual right, can access services, even where parents are not in treatment.

Awareness of PAM and its impact on young and adult children should be raised through information campaigns and training that target healthcare, social care, early years, child protection, family support, education, and mental health sectors, as well as families and communities. Such campaigns should also reach an adult cohort who perhaps has yet to recognise the underlying cause of its own problems.

Data should be gathered on the lives of children and adult children who have experienced PAM in Ireland to inform policy development and service provision.

Public discourse/debate on the right to a childhood free from alcohol harm should take place and children should have their voices heard in relation to the impact of alcohol on their lives.


1 For further information, visit: http://alcoholireland.ie/campaigns/silent-voices/

2 Alcohol Action Ireland (2019) Silent Voices manifesto. Dublin: Alcohol Action Ireland. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/31465/

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