Adamson & Templeton (2012)

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Silent Voices: supporting children and young people affected by parental alcohol misuse is a report commissioned by The Children's Commissioner for England to purport to change government policy on drinking by parents.

Unfortunately, the whole report seems based on nothing but guesswork as evidenced by this paragraph from the summary at the start of the report:

The review is primarily led by what we know from children’s direct input to research and policy development. The report focuses on publications covering England but also draws on work from elsewhere where it adds to our knowledge and is particularly pertinent to this review. Similarly, the emphasis is very much on parental alcohol misuse, but some studies and information from the wider field of substance misuse is also included. A number of key messages emerge for each of the six research questions:

1. Children’s Experiences

1. The size of the problem - the number of children who are affected by/living with parental alcohol misuse - is largely unknown. However, estimates suggest parental alcohol misuse is far more prevalent than parental drug misuse and there is a need for greater emphasis on parental alcohol misuse as distinct from other substance misuse. There are no England/UK data on how many children are affected by FASD (foetal alcohol spectrum disorder).

Anyway, onwards.

The Report

Forward

Written by Margaret 'Maggie' Atkinson, the Children's Commissioner for England, it first makes the sweeping claim that alcohol is worse than drugs:

The misuse of alcohol by parents negatively affects the lives and harms the wellbeing of more children than does the misuse of illegal drugs. Yet too often, parental alcohol misuse is not taken as seriously, in spite of alcohol being addictive, easier to obtain, and legal. The effects of parents’ alcohol misuse on children may be hidden for years, whilst children try both to cope with the impact on them, and manage the consequences for their families.

Next, we see who's opinion we are supposed to be witnessing:

We are publishing this review to draw attention to what children say about the problem.

Clearly, these children won't be prompted in what to say, how to say it, and won't be encouraged to over-exaggerate.

Finally, we are to take her upon her word that there is a problem and that something must be done.

My recommendations are for policy makers and all those who commission and provide local services. The impact of parental alcohol misuse is a problem which must be addressed by health professionals, those in social care, treatment services, and others in the child’s life. It requires a coordinated, collaborative approach. It is a problem with which parents must seek help, and one we all need to address. The children speaking in this report tell us our casual attitude to the harmful potential of drinking too much must change. If we act on what they say, we might prevent some children from losing their childhoods.

Community Research Company and Lorna Templeton

We next have an introductory section from the people who performed the research. The first is presented as the company CRC UK. Unfortunately at the time of the report's release

  • There was no web-presence for the company concerned - their website was simply the default apache index page for a site with no content whatsoever[1]. The only sources at the time of writing being second-hand references such as this report, and of the sparse page about the company on LinkedIn.
  • One of the two employees/founders/directors of CRC UK had left 2 months prior in Jul 2012[2], and it is the leaver who is cited as one of the authors of this report.

The second is Lorna Templeton who is presenting herself as a self employed independent researcher at the University of Bath, the latter which recently won an £450,000 'award' to produce further studies lambasting not only those who abuse alcohol, but who also enjoy it in moderation.[3]. The funding came from the Economic and Social Research Council which "is funded primarily through grant-in-aid from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)."[4] In other words, the tax payer.

About the Office of the Children’s Commissioner

This section is merely an advert for the OCC, and appears to overstep their remit by claiming they can influence policy that affects everyone:

Under the Children Act 2004 the Children’s Commissioner is required both to publish what she finds from talking and listening to children and young people, and to draw national policymakers’ and agencies’ attention to the particular circumstances of a child or small group of children which should inform both policy and practice.

Policy and practice, in this instance being alcohol policy that will apply to the whole of the adult population regardless of whether they have children or not.

OUR MISSION We will use our powers and independence to ensure that the views of children and young people are routinely asked for, listened to and that outcomes for children improve over time. We will do this in partnership with others, by bringing children and young people into the heart of the decision-making process to increase understanding of their best interests.


A particularly egregious example of this obnoxious idea is when some UK schools thought it was a bright idea to include pupils in the interview process or appraisals for teachers at their schools:

In one case, a teacher was labelled "Humpty Dumpty" by a pupil allowed to sit on his interview panel.

The teacher eventually got the job and taught three of the five students who had been on the panel.

"These pupils turned out to be poor behavers and low achievers who were being given these positions of responsibility as a motivational and self-esteem boost," the teacher wrote. [5]


In some cases, it was claimed that pupils marked down teachers who were too strict or handed out too many detentions.

One class complained that their languages teacher spoke French too much in lessons.

[...]

Another said: “During this interview I was asked to sing my favourite song.

“I declined as I was not being interviewed for a music position and felt that the request was humiliating. I did not get the job.” [6]

Acknowledgements

This is just a list of people to be back-patted for doing their (usually tax-payer-funded) 'jobs' such as fellow colleagues of Margaret Aktinson at the OCC, Action On Addiction that, for some reason, appears to think that grants can be accounted under the heading of 'Voluntary income'[7] and Adfam("Information and support for the families of drug and alcohol users.") that is funded from, amongst others, the Department for Education, the Department of Health, the Ministry of Justice and The City Bridge Trust.

Special mention goes to What about Me?(Nottingham NHS) and NACOA who's last annual report was dated 2010[8](in late 2012) and the version they proffer on their website is surprisingly lacking in detail as to where exactly their funds come from[9] (even more so than the one from the Charities Commission website)

Summary of Key Messages and Recommendations

The first sleight of hand comes along with the first footnote to this first sentence in this section:

This is a Rapid Evidence Assessment (RAE) of the needs and experiences of children and young people 1 ...

which leads to this enlightening footnote:

1For reasons of brevity the term ‘children’ will be used as a generic term throughout this report to refer to ‘children and young people’ and ‘adolescents’.

So, whenever they mention 'children' they are also, potentially, including people up to the age of 21 - not the usual mental image you get when reports such as this mention the children when mentioned in the media:

The end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood varies by country and by function, and furthermore even within a single nation-state or culture there can be different ages at which an individual is considered to be (chronologically and legally) mature enough to be entrusted by society with certain tasks. Such milestones include, [...], purchasing and drinking alcohol,[10]

The legal minimum age for purchasing alcohol in the majority of the United States, for example, is 21[11]

Section One: Background

Section Two: Methodology

Section Three: Consultation with children and young people

Section Four: Review Findings

Research Question One

Research Question Two

Research Question Three

Research Question Four

Research Question Five

Research Question Six

References included in the review

Appendix A: Final search strategy

Appendix B: Research Tables

Appendix C: Focus group plan (WAM)

Authors

References