St Helens schools to be integrated into project supporting families affected by alcohol dependency

It is estimated there are around 600 people who are alcohol dependent and live with children in St Helens
It is estimated there are around 600 people who are alcohol dependent and live with children in St Helens

A project set up to support families affected by alcohol dependency is aiming to integrate into schools across St Helens.


It is estimated there are around 600 people who are alcohol dependent and live with children in St Helens.

In November 2018 St Helens Council secured £275,772 of grant funding from the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Work and Pensions.

This money was used to fund a project called ‘Building Bridges’, which aims to identify and support the children of alcohol dependent parents.

St Helens is one of only nine local authorities across the country to be awarded funds for this project.

The People’s Board were given a presentation on the progress of the Building Bridges to date.

James Mawhinney, social work team leader and safeguarding lead at CGL St Helens Drug and Alcohol Recovery Service, revealed 80 new families have been accepted into the service since July.

He said Building Bridges is able to work with more than 270 families per year across a range of programmes.

Previously, Mr Mawhinney said, the majority of efforts went into supporting families in crisis, with early intervention strategies proving ineffective.

The new approach, he said, focuses on how the service can intervene from an early perspective and identifying mechanisms for doing that.

“One of the mechanisms that we’ve found was our schools,” Mr Mawhinney said.

“What we’re finding a lot of the time is there’s a lot of issues going on in the school playground, i.e. parents attending who are under the influence of alcohol.

“What we tend to find is, instead of being offered support by their peers that are in the playground, they’re being gossiped about.”

As part of the integration with schools, key parents will be identified to act as ‘alcohol champions’, who can help provide support and highlight the support Building Bridges can provide.

“Instead of gossiping about them parents they can go and offer support to them and highlight support that we are able to offer them,” Mr Mawhinney said.

Mr Mawhinney said the service will also look to provide training for teachers to explain what they can do to support children affected by alcohol dependency.

“What we really want to achieve is to educate our teachers and our school safeguarding leads on the project, on the impacts of alcohol use on families,” he said.

“But also, I think we talk a lot about how schools can support children and families.

“One of the things I’ve recognised is that in most cases we never offer them the support to actually deal with that.

“So, what we really want to do as part of the project is say, here’s the mechanisms to support the family, but then you’re in that position where you’ve got to talk to somebody about their alcohol use or you’ve got to talk to a child who’s affected by alcohol use.

“We’ll be there to support you along. We’ll hand-hold. We’ll take phone calls off the school. We’ll offer support, advice, signposting and guidance.”

Reducing harm from alcohol was identified as one of the Peoples Board’s priorities for action in the Peoples Plan (2017-2020).

An action plan was presented to the board in January, which focused on prevention and early intervention, treatment and recovery and enforcement and control.

On Wednesday, the People’s Board noted a report that highlighted progress on these three priority workstreams for 2019-2020.