Spotlight on Hidden Harm

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Walthom Forest

This newsletter is brought to you by the Waltham Forest Safeguarding Children’s Board, Safeguarding Adults Board, Health & Wellbeing Board and SafetyNet (our Community Safety Partnership). It’s aimed at everyone working with children and adults who live in Waltham Forest. Please share with your colleagues and encourage them to sign up to get it regularly.

September 2021: Spotlight on Hidden Harm

What is 'Hidden Harm'?

Hidden harm - in its broadest sense - is abuse which is being experienced but going unseen. It is harm or abuse that is usually hidden from public view occurring behind closed doors, often not recognised or reported. Pressures on families arising from periods of social isolation during the pandemic have increased the risk of mental and physical harm to children and young people, but these signs of harm have been harder to detect, due to the lack of usual face-to-face interaction.

As September is 'Recovery Month', this month's Spotlight will explore hidden harm caused by the abuse of drugs and alcohol by parents and carers - both on themselves and on their children and the young people they care for - with a view to spotting signs of parental substance early and helping to prevent risk escalation.

Why is it important to recognise hidden harm?

Referrals from Children’s social care are increasing. Recognising hidden harm and the impact of alcohol and drug abuse on children helps to centre the voice of the child, sharing their views and wishes.

Reported concerns which can impact children as hidden harm:

  • Parental alcohol dependency and domestic violence
  • Parental cannabis uses and mental health deterioration
  • Parental opiate use: parents struggling to engage/stay on script

Supporting children and young people in Waltham Forest

moody teen

Until recently, the emphasis has been on working with the person (parent or carer) using substances, and the needs of their children have been “hidden” from treatment services and drug policy.

Change Grow Live Young Person’s Service is striving to change that, by working directly with young people in a person-centered way, and helping children build on their resilience, through the support of a hidden harm lead.

What are the responsibilities of a hidden harm lead?

A hidden harm lead will support children and young people (between 6 and 18 years-old) who may have been affected by a parent or loved one’s drug / alcohol misuse.

Together with the young person, a hidden harm lead will assess needs using an outcome scaling tool and make a goal-oriented plan to address these. The assessment explores multiple areas of support need, including wellbeing; impact of substance use; safety and support networks.

Every young person is given a safe place to explore their feelings about a situation they may not feel they have much control over. Leads help them to identify their own goals and achieve their full potential, using age-appropriate activities such as games, arts and crafts and emotional wellbeing resources to help them make sense of their experiences.

Interventions for children and young people include:

  • Communicating with young people by text and by phone, providing a safe place to discuss worries and concerns
  • Partnership work with Waltham Forest CGL Adult substance misuse service to ensure the needs of the young person are included in adult support packages
  • Open support group for parents focused on strengthening families / understanding the impact on children
  • Age-appropriate activities: story telling, drawing, collage-making, games to evoke conversation e.g., Question Jenga
  • Access to in-house counselling support  

Supporting a parent or carer who is abusing drugs and alcohol

two women

CGL Waltham Forest is a free, safe and confidential drug and alcohol service for all adults, children and young people who are residents of the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

CGL provides:

  • One-to-one key working
  • Group programme
  • Medical assessment for opiate substitute treatment and on-site prescribing
  • One-to-one counselling
  • Alcohol treatment including detoxification
  • Support for parents and carers including counselling
  • Advice and information
  • Harm reduction including needle exchange, BBV testing and vaccination
  • Family interventions and hidden harm work
  • Multiagency support with mental health, social care, hostels and other teams

Find out more about CGL


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In other news....

Upcoming training in September - last few spaces available to book:

Free workshops for women and girls affected by sexual violence:

East London Rape Crisis are running a number of free online workshops aimed at women and girls who have experienced sexual violence at any point during their lives, more details here. Please share details with women and girls who might benefit from these sessions.

For any queries about these sessions please contact Rape Crisis direct:


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