The Family Angle: August 2017

Everything you need to know about families, drugs and alcohol.

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Over the years we’ve done lots of things as part of our mission to improve life for families: supported people through direct domestic abuse community projects; been grilled by ministers in parliament; deployed a flash-mob in a Newcastle shopping centre; and organised a private view of our 30th birthday portraits in a smart Soho gallery to name but four.

We have something new and rather novel to add to that list – families are now able to enjoy respite breaks at a comfortable and modern caravan in Hastings, Sussex. We have been supported by Public Health England and The London Borough of Greenwich in doing this – consequently the cheapest rates are available for Greenwich residents, but all family members can enjoy a substantial discount.

Read about the caravan.

In other news
  • We had a fantastic event in late July celebrating the wonderful work done by our volunteers. Check out the photos online. Thanks to everyone who came.
  • We’ve continued to share and discuss our guide “Making it Happen” with lots of different people around the country.
  • We join those reacting in distress and outrage at the rising level of drug-related deaths in this country. If you work in or around treatment we urge you to take a look at the brand new guidance from Collective Voice and the NHS Substance Misuse Provider Alliance on how treatment services can reduce the frequency of these tragic events.
Oliver Standing
Director of Policy and Communications

Regional roundup

Over the past weeks we have:
  • Run dual diagnosis focus groups in London and Glasgow
  • Held an East of England forum in Cambridge with a focus on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
  • Had some great initial meetings in the North East ahead of our upcoming project with women affected by substance use and domestic abuse
  • Trained new family support workers and volunteers in Darlington and Middleborough
 To find out more about our regional work, contact Becky Allon-Smith.


Drug Misuse Prevention, quality standard consultation - NICE
This consultation is open until September 7, and invites feedback on a proposed new quality standards from any relevant organisation with an interest in prevention.
What contributes to compassion fatigue in health professionals working in drug and alcohol servicesLancaster University
This consultation should be completed by practitioners working in front-line drug or alcohol services and asks for anonymous feedback on how compassion can be eroded over time for those in challenging roles.


Drug Strategy – UK Government
The Government published its long-awaited Drug Strategy in July. Adfam welcomes the strategy, and in particular the recognition that family members need support in their own right. Read Adfam’s full response online.

DDN have helpfully compiled a list of responses from a range of organisations. Sam Thomas from the Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) coalition has written a thought-provoking article on the strategy, as has (more critically) Yasmin Batliwala from WDP.

Clinical Guidelines on Drug Misuse and Dependence UK Government
Alongside the new Drug Strategy, the Government has also published its updated clinical guidelines on drug misuse and dependence. They recognise the impact of drug misuse on families and communities, the need to involve families in their loved one’s treatment, and the importance of providing support for families and carers in their own right. We also welcome the recognition of the potential risks to children of opioid substitution treatment and how these risks can be reduced.

On measuring the number of vulnerable children in England  Children's Commissioner
The Children’s Commissioner for England has published her report which reveals the scale of vulnerability among children in England. The statistics reveal the shocking number of children in the UK living in vulnerable situations. These include half a million children vulnerable enough to merit state intervention, thousands living with adults who in drug or alcohol treatment, and 800,000 with mental health difficulties.

In Focus: "Marks and scars"

Hepatitis C and people who inject drugs: the family experience

The families we work with often have to deal with a multitude of problems connected to their loved one’s substance use, but one issue which has had relatively little attention is hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus mainly affecting cells in the liver, and the most common cause of transmission is sharing needles, meaning people who inject drugs are one of the most at-risk groups. Recent estimates suggest that 214,000 people in the UK have chronic hepatitis C, and around half of people who inject drugs are thought to have been infected. This means that a substantial number of families coping with a loved one’s drug use also have to deal with the impacts of hepatitis C.

In our recent report “Marks and scars” we have set out what families have told us about the impact the disease can have on the whole family. Their stories are very powerful. As one woman told us: “Having hep C is not a trivial thing, being around someone with it is not a trivial thing. It leaves marks and scars on the people around them.”

The impacts on family life are varied. Coping with their loved one’s symptoms and side effects of medication mean that family members often have to take on more of a caring role, and help with everyday tasks. Due in many cases to a lack of knowledge about transmission, family members worry about contracting hepatitis C themselves. In some cases, these worries are warranted; one mother told us how she had cut herself on her son’s razor and subsequently had to be tested herself.

Any long-term illness can be a source of stress, and hepatitis C is no different – family members told us about the strain it caused on relationships in their family, causing arguments and estrangement. This stress is also exacerbated by the stigma surrounding both hepatitis C and injecting drug use – families can feel isolated, not wanting to turn to friends or family for help for fear of what they may think.

The family members involved in our research had a variety of recommendations for how their experiences could be improved, from raising awareness of hepatitis C to challenge stigma, to providing information and support for families in their own right, to enabling family members to be involved in their loved one’s treatment, to improving access to hepatitis C treatment. Much still needs to be done, and at Adfam we will be exploring ways in which we can bring about this positive change.

Alison Hill
Policy and Communications Assistant
Copyright © 2017 Adfam, All rights reserved.

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