Children of alcoholics changing politics and providing a voice for millions like them in the UK today.
International COA Week 9 to 15 February 2020:
Celebrating Children of Alcoholics Week 2020

COA Week is the annual calendar event to raise awareness for the 2.6 million children in the UK affected by their parent’s drinking.[1] (See bottom of release for more statistics.)

Many children affected by a parent’s problem drinking have no friends because they feel too embarrassedto bring them home in case Mum or Dad are drunk, or worse. They live in a home full of fear and having no one to turn to because everyone denies there’s a problem. Experiences often follow these vulnerable children into adult life, being much more likely to witness domestic violence, consider suicide, or develop drink or drug problem themselves.

We want everyone to know they are not alone, and that help and support is available.

Record numbers of alcohol-dependent parents are calling the children of alcoholics helpline to refer their own children for help.

Of the 24,000 requests for help received last year by charity Nacoa, helpline counsellors are reporting significant increases in referrals for children from their own mums and dads. In 2019, Nacoa answered 2,160 calls from parents and carers, compared to 842 such calls in 2014.[2]  

In the UK, currently, only 18% of alcohol-dependents are in contact with treatment services. A number that is set to increase with cuts to local services.[3] Since there are an estimated 705,000 children of dependent drinkers in the UK, approximately 578,000 children then live in a home where a parent is alcohol-dependent and has no contact with the outside world.[4]

If a child is not one of the lucky ones whose parents are in contact with help, the world can be a very dark place. Their life is clouded by secrecy, isolation, lack of money, insecurity, guilt, and trauma. The shame and stigma surrounding alcohol problems means that children feel they cannot speak out to friends, family, or support services.

Since the recent growth in public consciousness of the confidential support for children of alcohol-dependents, more parents are calling the helpline to seek help for their children, even if they are not ready to find help for themselves.

Orla, 5 years old, called the helpline after her Mum put her in touch. The ‘case report’ records that: ‘The conversation started with Orla asking why her Mum is angry with her, why does Mum drink and how can I stop her drinking.  She said her Mum had the drink and needles and it was all her (the caller’s) fault.

‘She said that she was worried about her Mum as she had locked herself in the bathroom the previous night and was still there.  Her Mum had said that she wanted to die and would be dead in the morning but the caller would be alive and should use the green button on the phone to call for help (Mum had programmed the NACOA number on her mobile).’

(Full case report is available on request)

Increased awareness of the problems faced by children of alcoholics follows from the widely reported case of Nacoa reading bedtime stories to young children whose parents are not able to do so because of their problem drinking.[5]

During COA Week, actor Geraldine James OBE will lead a line-up of high profile speakers at the House of Commons (12th February) lending their support, including deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph Camilla Tominey, actor Cherie Lunghi, boxing manager and coach David Coldwell, and politicians Liam Byrne MP and Jonathan Ashworth MP.

Geraldine James recalls of her experience as a child of an alcohol-dependent parent:

‘As children we were never allowed to talk openly about our mother’s drinking. I grew up feeling ashamed, frightened, lost, guilty and lonely. I learned to cope, to lie and to pretend to be grown up, to put on a brave face, to look after everyone else and to be the parent. If only Nacoa had been there then; offering us someone to listen uncritically, to give help and support; someone to trust. But there was literally no one to turn to.’[6]

Join us during COA Week 2020 to raise awareness for the millions of children in the UK affected by their parent’s drinking. And to celebrate the amazing work of organisations who offer vital help and support.

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Communications lead: Piers Henriques, 0785 553 3962,

Nacoa Ambassador: Josh Connolly, 0790 517 8873,          

Nacoa Co-founder and CEO: Hilary Henriques, 07506 744 771,


0117 924 8005

Editors Notes:

  • There are an estimated 2.6 million children in the UK living with a parent who drink too much.
  • Sadly, problems often persist into adulthood. Millions of adults are still affected by their parent’s drinking and the effects of growing up with alcohol problems.
  • Children living with parental alcoholism are:
  • Six times as likely to witness domestic violence
  • Five times as likely to develop an eating problem
  • Three times as likely to consider suicide
  • Twice as likely to experience difficulties at school
  • Three times as likely to develop alcoholism or addiction
  • Twice as likely to be in trouble with the police
  • Nacoa (registered charity no. 1009143) was founded in 1990 to provide information, advice and support to everyone affected by a parent’s drinking. This is provided through a free and confidential telephone and email helpline and website. Helpline: 0800 358 3456, Email:, website:
  • Nacoa has responded to over 330,000 calls since 1990.
  • suggests ways to get involved and contains downloadable resources.

Planned events for COA Week:

  • Children’s book ‘Jasper’s Wish’ to be published. To be available on a public release and to be read to children who call the Nacoa helpline.
  • Announcement of future ‘Jasper’s Wish’ audiobook, narrated by COA Week supporter and actor Cherie Lunghi.
  • Geraldine James will deliver Nacoa’s annual David Stafford Memorial Lecture in the House of Commons, London,
  • Other speakers include David Coldwell, Camilla Tominey, Ceri Walker, Calum Best, and Liam Byrne MP.
  • Nacoa will be sharing personal stories via social media of high profile supporters including Elle Macpherson, Calum Best, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
  • Shadow Health Minister, Jonathan Ashworth MP, will promote new Nacoa document ‘Info for CAHMs Workers’ booklet, providing information and advice for mental health workers working with this vulnerable group.
  • Celebrating work and activities of organisations helping COAs through the new COA Week website.
  • Facebook Live event with Nacoa Ambassador, Josh Connolly, evening of 10th February.
  • Launching new charitable clothes line established by Ceri Walker, Dreaming of Eden.

[1] Nacoa Research.

[2] Nacoa Research.

[3] Alcohol Change.

[4] Manning et al cited in Nacoa Research.

[5] Sunday Express, Feb 18 2017.

[6] COA Week, 2020.

Children of alcoholics changing politics and providing a voice for millions like them in the UK today.

Nacoa is proudly celebrating the 10th Children of Alcoholics Week (10 – 16 February 2019), an international campaign to raise awareness of the millions of children around the world affected by a parent’s drinking.

As the helpline providing information advice and support for children of alcoholics (COAs) in the UK, 2018 saw Nacoa receive over 20,000 calls from people in need of support. Almost 100,000 contacts were made through the website, social media, message boards, and community blog site

Increasing requests for help in recent years represent a growing number of COAs seeking help and support, having seen their own experiences reflected in recent campaigns like #COAWeek in the media and beyond. Behind every contact lies a human story to be told and heard.

“For much of my life, I have grown up with that gnawing insecurity that is all too common for children of alcoholics, that constant feeling of guilt, not being able to stop your mum or dad from drinking. I know what it is like to feel that cold nausea when you find the empty bottles or hear your parent being sick first thing in the morning because they have drunk too much.’ Liam Byrne MP

It has been a breakthrough time for COAs and their advocates, having recently persuaded the UK Government that a long-term strategy should be put in place for these vulnerable young people. Inspired by Nacoa’s mission to bring COAs to light in the public consciousness, 2016 saw Liam Byrne create the APPG on Children of Alcoholics to address what he calls ‘Britain’s dirty secret’. Soon after the Group’s ‘Manifesto for Change’ gained cross-party support in 2017-8. Subsequent Health and Public Health Ministers have since committed to improve support services for COAs, promising additional funds starting in 2019.

Liam Byrne and Jonathan Ashworth will speak at the annual ‘David Stafford Memorial Lecture’ at the House of Commons on 14 February 2019, joined by footballing legend Tony Adams and TV star Calum Best (Media welcome – please contact

Despite the prevalence of drink problems in the UK, there is still a long way to go to dismantle the taboo. Demonising people with drink problems prevents them and their children from asking for help. By sharing stories during #COAWeek2019 we begin to break down the conspiracy of silence around children of alcoholics.

As we enter the 10th year of #COAWeek, Nacoa invite media agencies, businesses, charities and the general public to get involved so we can continue to reach the 2.6 million children in the UK living with a parent who drinks too much.