30,000 children living in the shadow of drugs and drink

New figures today revealed the alarming number of children in Norfolk living with parents who are addicted to drink or drug.

Statistics from a Norfolk-based drugs action charity reveal that 30,000 children are affected in Norfolk and Suffolk.

NORCAS estimates that between 12,000 and 18,000 children in the two counties live in a home where one or both parents abuse alcohol, and up to 9,000 live with one or both parents with a drug problem.

In some cases children as young as five are being put in the position of trying to take care of their parents, often being forced to skip school to look after them and deal with their sickness.

The problem in Norfolk and Suffolk has grown so much that the charity NORCAS last night launched it's first ever fundraising appeal to raise �50,000 specifically to launch a new youth service to help the children whose young lives are blighted by the shadow cast by addiction.

The aim of the 'Too Much Too Young' appeal is to allow NORCAS, which supports those who have problems with drugs, alcohol and gambling, to develop a dedicated service across Norfolk and Suffolk to work with children on a daily basis.

The charity is looking to raise �50,000, which will go towards helping those between the ages of seven and 13 who are affected by a family member's substance misuse.

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It would offer support to the children, including one to one help, respite breaks, the chance for them to talk about their problems with other children in a similar position and awareness projects in schools.

Matt Wilson, head of fundraising at NORCAS said: 'Children affected by a family member's misuse of drugs and alcohol has always been an issue and is becoming even more prevalent.

'The figures are increasing. There's a huge number of reasons for that. The accessibility to alcohol is one of them and the breakdown of sexual barriers in these families means the people with these problems are having more children.

'We recognise that children can be affected in a number of ways by a family member's substance misuse and that these problems can have severe negative consequences for the individuals as they grow up.'

Mr Wilson said financial difficulties and early responsibilities, domestic abuse, lack of school attendance, bullying and lack of social activities and role reversal were all problems which the children could face.

These problems can have various negative consequences for the children, such as low self-esteem and confidence, lack of educational attainment, social exclusion, neglect of health and the risk of developing drug and alcohol problems themselves, robbing them of their childhoods.

Mr Wilson said NORCAS had taken the step to launch a fundraising campaign because there was nothing else to help these children.

He said: 'Without current statutory funding existing in Norfolk or Suffolk to help these children, NORCAS has decided to launch an appeal to start to make a difference.'

Every penny of the money raised through the NORCAS appeal will go straight to the children across Norfolk and Suffolk who need help.

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, said: 'This is an excellent cause and a very strong local organisation which I have been proud to support in the past. I hope people will support this campaign.'

If you would like to donate to the NORCAS 'Too Much Too Young' Appeal, visit www.toomuchtooyoungappeal.org.uk contact Matt Wilson on 01603 227053 or email m.wilson@norcas.org.uk

For more information on NORCAS and its services, visit www.norcas.org.uk

Do you have a health-related story for the Evening News? Call reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk