Practitioners and professionals

Substance misuse


Although there are some parents who are able to care for and safeguard their child/ren despite their substance misuse, parental substance dependence can cause significant harm to children at all stages of development. An assessment is required to determine the extent of need and level of risk of harm for each child in the family.

Children’s vulnerability may stem from the impact of substance misuse on parenting capacity as parents may have difficulty in organising their lives. For example, excessive alcohol intake or drug misuse may mean that parents are less attentive to a baby or child’s needs and the preoccupation with getting and using drugs means that parents place their own needs above those of their children. Therefore, children are likely to be at increased risk of, or experiencing, significant harm primarily through emotional abuse and neglect. The child/ren may also not be well protected from physical or sexual abuse.


What should you do?

It is important that arrangements are in place to enable children’s social care services and substance misuse (including alcohol) services referrals to be made in relevant cases. Where children may be suffering significant harm because of their own substance misuse, or where parental substance misuse may be causing such harm, referrals need to be made to Community Drug and Alcohol teams or alcohol services, in accordance with East Riding Safeguarding Children Partnership procedures.

Where parental substance and/or alcohol misuse may be causing a child or young person significant harm referrals need to be made by Local Partnership Teams or alcohol services in accordance with local safeguarding children partnership (LSCP) procedures. Even where children or young people are not suffering significant harm, parents may find it useful to have additional support therefore referral arrangements also need to be in place to enable children and young people’s broader needs to be assessed and responded to.

Professionals in all agencies must recognise that they have a primary duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children and young people.

For those children or young people who are suffering, or at risk of suffering, significant harm, joint working is essential to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child (ren). All agencies and professionals should: 

  • be alert to potential indicators of abuse or neglect;
  • be alert to the risks that individual abusers, or potential abusers, may pose to children;
  • share and help analyse information so that an assessment can be made of the child’s needs and circumstances;
  • contribute to whatever actions are needed to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare;
  • take part in regularly reviewing the outcomes for the child against specific plans;
  • work co-operatively with parents, unless this is inconsistent with ensuring the child’s safety Be alert to the degree of intoxication, withdrawal or drug and alcohol seeking behaviour which may pose a risk to children and young people.


Where children are not suffering significant harm, referral arrangements also need to be in place to enable children’s broader needs to be assessed and responded to. 

Further information can be found in the local Guidance for Working With Substance Misusing Parents And Those Who Come Into Regular Contact With Children and Young People which can be downloaded here:

Hidden Harm - Guidance for Working with Substance Misusing Parents and those who come into Regular Contact with Children and Young People (pdf 380kb)

Hidden Harm Toolkit (pdf 811kb)


Screening for alcohol and substance misuse 

Adult alcohol screening test 

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) was developed by the World Health Organisation as a simple method for screening for excessive drinking and to assist in brief assessment. It helps to work out how much people are drinking and what the effects might be. To use the tool:

  • Talk through questions particularly what a ‘standard drink’ means
  • Circle one answer
  • Add up the score

Use the Simple Structured Advice Sheet to talk through the impact and make a plan if necessary. It is recommended that you are trained in the use of the tool for example, ERSCP Substance Misuse Awareness training.

You can download the tool and the Simple Structured Advice Sheet here:


Drug Use Screening Tool (DUST) for use with young people

Although many young people will try drugs at some time, most do not progress beyond experimentation. However, research indicates that many factors can increase the risk of a young person moving from “drug use” to “drug misuse”, whilst some protective factors can reduce these risks. Unless you are a specialist drug worker it can be difficult to distinguish between use and misuse, and to accurately assess these risk factors. This tool should help.

To complete this form you do not need a comprehensive knowledge of drugs but you may need to know how to contact your nearest drugs service for young people. This service will be able to provide appropriate information, leaflets and guidance.

DUST is designed for use with young people about whom there may be concerns regarding drug / alcohol use.

  • It will not provide a comprehensive substance use assessment
  • It will indicate when specialist advice should be sought.
  • It will help identify risk factors. 

You can download the tool here:

Drug Use Screening Tool


Where can I find more information?

The East Riding young people's substance misuse service offers a free, confidential, friendly and professional approach to helping children and young people with alcohol and drug problems.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council - Drugs and alcohol advice (external council website)


The East Riding Partnership (ERP)

The East Riding Partnership (ERP) is a formal partnership between Humber NHS Foundation Trust and The Alcohol and Drug Service (ADS). The ERP provides a range of substance misuse services to adults across the East Riding of Yorkshire that delivered through the Open Access service, the Shared Care service and the Community Drug and Alcohol teams (CDAT)

The East Riding Partnership (ERP) (external website) 


NHS Direct

NHS Direct can provide help and advice on any aspect of drug and alcohol use: 

Tel: 0845 4647

NHS 111 (external website) 


FRANK - The National Drugs Helpline (also called Talk to Frank)

A website for young people providing free, confidential drugs information and advice 24 hours a day.

FRANK - Friendly, confidential drugs advice (external website) 


Drug scope

This website provides independent information on drugs and drug related issues.

Drug scope (external website)


Drink Aware

This website raises awareness about alcohol, health issues, legislation and drinking:

Drink Aware (external website)  



Re-Solv is the UK’s leading agency working to end volatile substance abuse and support those whose lives are affected by it and the website can be accessed below:

Re-Solv (external website)


Is there local training?

East Riding Safeguarding Children Partnership (ERSCP) offer a blended learning approach to the impact of parental substance misuse, mental health issues and domestic abuse on children and young people. Details of e-learning and development sessions can be found on the ERSCP Learning and Development page:

You can also access free substance misuse e-learning below:

Drug Training for Free (external website)