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Department for Education reveals thousands more South East households are misusing drugs and alcohol

May 10, 2020

The Department for Education has released new statistics on the number of parents and children living across the South East referred to and assessed by social services between 2018 and 2019, revealing thousands of households were already severely abusing drugs or alcohol even before the Covid-19 lockdown struck.

The figures show that between 2018 and 2019, 82,730 referrals were made to social care services across the South East which required further assessment, a figure which has risen by nearly 15% in just 3 years, when 73,700 referrals were made.

During these household assessments, data has been revealed as to how many times a concerning factor was identified (each assessment may have multiple concerning factors recorded for it).

Alcohol misuse was identified at the end of 15,620 assessments, accounting for (an aggregated) 18% of cases, and an increase of 10% in three years.

Drug misuse was identified at the end of 17,460 assessments, accounting for (an aggregated) 22% of cases and an increase of 22% in three years.

Other concerning factors identified at the end of household assessments in 2018/19 across the South East included domestic violence (43,610 times), mental health (32,610 times), neglect (14,980 times) and physical abuse (10,030 times).

Drug and alcohol addiction experts the UK Addiction Treatment Group (UKAT) warns these numbers will more than likely ‘tip off the scale in the next report’ given the current Coronavirus crisis lockdown;

Nuno Albuquerque, Group Treatment Lead at UKAT, said: ‘This report is truly saddening as it paints such a graphic and telling picture of how some families living across the South East are living.

‘We must remember that these aren’t just numbers; they’re children, parents and carers whose situation last year was so concerning it was passed to social services to explore and support. Worse still, more and more referrals are coming through every year.

‘Our immediate concern now is how much worse their situations may have become since the COVID-19 lockdown was enforced. Those who were living with domestic violence, neglect, physical abuse and drug and alcohol abuse now have nowhere to go, nowhere to escape to. 

“Unfortunately, we’d expect to see the number of referrals into social care and support services rise during this time, particularly for alcohol misuse.’

UKAT has also seen a stark rise in the number of people using their 24/7 online chat tool, people who are struggling with life at home, who are turning to alcohol and drug misuse, and reaching out for help.

UKAT operates multiple residential rehabs across the South East; Banbury Lodge in Oxfordshire, Recovery Lighthouse in Worthing and Primrose Lodge in Surrey.

Mr Albuquerque, continued: ‘We’re speaking with more people than ever about their struggle with drugs and alcohol and how the pressures from the current crisis is affecting their relationship with these substances. Many people are using them as coping methods and for some, this will progress into dependency and addiction and will remain with them long after the lockdown measures are relieved.

‘We urge everyone living across the South East to ask for help if they feel that they need it. Not everything has stopped during the crisis; support services are still there to support you. We all need to come together, be kind and to help those most vulnerable in our communities.’

If either you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, visit for local support services across the South East.