Drug addiction taking terrible toll on families

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A child is born to a drug-using family every two days in Fife, the region’s social work service has revealed.

Each year there is a 10% rise in the number of children being looked after by the Fife Council service. Across the region there are nearly 800 children in care and over 200 on the child protection register.

More than 100 children on the register are under the age of five.

The Courier reported on Wednesday that the local authority put the increasing number of children judged to be at risk from either physical, sexual of emotional abuse down to early intervention by partner agencies such as GP services, schools and police.

But the service’s executive director Stephen Moore has since revealed the numbers also reflect the growing toll on society caused by drug and alcohol abuse.

Over the past five years, the number of babies born to drug using families has risen from one a week to one every other day.PreoccupiedMr Moore said because drug-abusing parents tended to be more preoccupied with feeding their habits than looking after their children, social workers were working with other agencies to identify youngsters at risk as early as possible in some cases before they are born.

“We are working, even before a child is born, to ensure when the baby is born that there is enough support for the parents and enough support for the baby,” he said.

“At the end of this year there will be 10% more children looked after than today. This is a result of the lifestyle choices being made by families.”

Alcohol dependency among Fifers creates an even bigger burden on society than illegal drugs, Mr Moore said.

He said, “Alcohol is a bigger problem than drugs in terms of the numbers of people who are dependent and the impact on lifestyles.

“But there is a huge impact from drugs because of the volatile nature of drugs. People who use drugs get a huge hit every time they take drugs and the impact it has on their lifestyle is huge in terms of their employment, relationships, ability to stay in accommodation and keep custody of their children.”

In Scotland, 16 children die each year as a direct result of parental abuse, with abused children most likely to suffer at the hands of a family member.Grim statisticMr Moore said the grim statistic had remained roughly the same for 20 years.

The growing problem of substance abuse has seen a change in the demographics of prison populations. Greenock Prison now has to accommodate the overspill of female convicts sent to Cornton Vale.

“That’s almost exclusively because of drug and alcohol misuse,” said Mr Moore, who added that the best-case scenario was to support drug users in the community instead of sending them to prison, where they were likely to come out having lost their home, employment and children.

“The drug court offers other alternatives to jail, allowing people to keep their jobs and their families. Fife and Glasgow are leaders in Scotland for their drug courts.”

Fife Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) was recently awarded a two-year funding package of £805,000 to support drug users.

DAAT co-ordinator Rita Keyte said, “We are committed to improving the lives of those dealing with substance misuse.

“The £805,000 over two years has been allocated to a variety of voluntary and statutory services providing a range of support such as drop-in centres, counselling and psychological support and early intervention services for eight to 15-year-olds. Organisations throughout Fife will deliver these at a local level.