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Troubled families update: Adfam response

Adfam has responded to the publication of Listening to Troubled Families by Louise Casey CB for the Department for Communities and Local Government. The report is based on interviews with a number of 'troubled families' to better understand the problems that they face, and the support that they need.

Responding to the report, Vivienne Evans OBE, Adfam's Chief Executive, says:

Substance use is clearly a common theme identified in this new report from DCLG, and one which will impact on many troubled families. As the report demonstrates, drug and alcohol problems are often a part of a more complex web of disadvantages and they are not reducible to a simple cause and effect analysis. We strongly encourage local authorities, in designing their troubled families programmes to meet local need, to ensure that drug and alcohol services are engaged in this process and their expertise is sought in this often specialised area.

Particularly concerning is the significant impact of intergenerational drug problems, which makes ever stronger the need to support the children of parental substance users so that – first and foremost – they have a safe and happy childhood, but also to build resilience and coping skills to ensure that addiction does not become a common thread through the family tree. In many people’s eyes there is a grey area in young adulthood where children stop being innocent victims of their upbringing and become independent architects of their own circumstances and behaviour; Adfam believes we need to concentrate on supporting these young people to understand their history and environment as they develop their own identity. Parental substance use has long-term effects on young people and support needs to be available throughout childhood.

Adfam has always argued that you don’t have to use drugs to have a drug problem – so we would encourage local services to focus not only on an individual’s substance use, but on its wider effects on family relationships, functioning, parenting and childcare. Though the case studies in the reports paint a picture of whole troubled families, there are often wider relatives and friends who are adversely affected – particularly children – or who can play a supportive role, for example grandparent carers.

The report does have limitations by its own design in being based on a small sample of case studies – we cannot assume that 16 families speak for the 120,000 the Government speaks of – and in the fact that the families involved had already been engaged by Family Intervention Projects. We welcome the report and the debate it has undoubtedly stimulated, but encourage local areas to use it to inform their responses to troubled families rather than assume it presents the total picture of families’ needs.

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