Alcohol Harm to Others

Hidden Harm: Children living with problem parental alcohol and other drug use.


Parental substance misuse can and does cause serious harm to children at every age, from conception to adulthood. Children of substance misusing parents experience elevated risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, emotional and physical neglect, development of serious emotional and social problems later in life, and are vulnerable to the development of substance misuse problems themselves.

Hidden Harm

The experience of children living with, and affected by, parental substance use has become widely known as ‘Hidden Harm’. The term Hidden Harm encapsulates the two key features of that experience: that children are often not known to services, that they suffer harm in a number of ways through physical and emotional neglect, including exposure to harm and poor parenting. Not all parents who use substances experience difficulties with parenting capacity. Equally not all children exposed to parental substance misuse are affected adversely either in the short or longer term.

National Hidden Harm Project

The National Hidden Harm Project has been established by HSE Social Inclusion and the Child and Family Agency to inform service planning and improved services for children in relation to Hidden Harm.

To achieve this, the views of stakeholders, families, commissioners, managers, practitioners, health researchers, social workers, drug and alcohol service workers and other relevant disciplines will be taken into account. This will be conducted in a phased approach. Two pilot sites have been established for the project, these are the Midlands and the North West.