Neil McKeganey, who’s opinions I’ve tended to admire, has some strong words about intervening with alcoholic parents. I think I agree that there should not be disparity between drug addiction and alcohol addiction. However, I have real problems about any proposal to aggressively remove children from addicted parents. I think it’s safe to assume that abuse or neglect is more common in an addicted home, but it seems to me that the same standards should be applied in all homes, addicted or not.
Alcoholic parents should have their kids taken from them in the same way as heroin addicts, one of Scotland’s top addiction experts has claimed.
Professor Neil McKeganey, a former government adviser, has accused social services of double standards when dealing with heroin and alcohol addiction.
The respected academic has said children of parents who refuse to give up drink are suffering neglect as serious as those of drug addicts.
McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at Glasgow University, has warned the Scottish moralistic attitude to drugs means well-meaning social workers are failing thousands of Scots youngsters.
Social workers are often reluctant to remove children from the homes of alcoholics while the use of illegal drugs such as heroin is seen as far more serious.
Around 560 children are taken into care each year, the vast majority from parents who are drug addicts.
But as many as 100,000 children north of the Border are living in homes where alcohol abuse is affecting their welfare.
McKeganey believes alcohol problems result in more children being neglected.
It is feared a change in approach towards parental drink problems would see the beleaguered social services system swamped with cases.
But Professor McKeganey said alcoholism must now be treated in the same way as drug addiction in order to protect Scots children.
He said: “It is almost certainly the case that a child in a home with parental alcohol abuse is not being well looked after.
“If a parent cannot change their behaviour, they cannot be allowed to continue to harm their children.
“More should be removed from their homes, where parental alcohol use is affecting their health, than is currently the case.
“Social services are understandably extremely reluctant to remove children from the parental home. Often through a false sense of optimism they hope parents will resolve to start to look after their children.
“And yet that can often mean children remain within their families for far too long and suffer long-term harm as a result.”
Here’s a slightly more sober view:
Tom Wood, chairman of the Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action, said: “We’ve been focused on the children of drug abusing parents, but children of alcohol abusing parents are as vulnerable.
“There are subtle differences between living in a home with an alcohol or drug problem but the same rules apply.
“Some cases will merit intervention – whether that is supervision in the home or, as a last resort, the child being taken into care.
“If you use drugs, bang, your child could be taken into care. But you can use alcohol. That’s a moralistic view which I think is flawed.”