Parental use of substances and the potential harm to children.

One particular hard part around providing recovery support for those that use substances is safeguarding children that live with a substance user. Although many parents who use substances can lead stable lives and pose no risk to their children, this is not always the case and the nature of  substance use can cause chaotic, unpredictable, disadvantaged and risky lives. This type of lifestyle can cause physical as well as hidden harm to children, such as behavioural and relationship problems, emotional or developmental impairments and increased risk of using substances themselves1

In the UK it is estimated that between 50%-80% of children in the UK live with a parent who use substances2.  As a precaution against the high risk of harm and poor outcomes of maternal substance use, a high proportion of children are taken into care to try and ensure that these children have the best outcomes3.  It should be reiterated that living in a house with a parent or carer who are substance users does not mean children will be neglected or abused, but it is a risk factor1.

When a child is taken away from it’s parent it can be an understandably traumatic and emotional event for both parent and child. Often the case may be with heavy substance use, a parent may not have the funds, physical or mental ability to be in the position to see, or be a positive force in the child’s life. While some use this to drive changed and focus themselves on recovery-working with recovery services and social services. For others this can fuel a deeper decline and reduce recovery capital.

The Capital Card® has been used in a number of different ways and as the scheme grows, we will no doubt see more and more ways that Users use the scheme. Here we share the story of a service user who used their card to give an amazing opportunity to her daughter. Click here to see other ways that users are using their Capital Card®.

This is how KN used the Capital Card® to remind her daughter she wasn’t without her Mother.

KN is a service user in WDP’s Barnet recovery service and a user of the Capital Card®.

 Due to her substance misuse her daughter was unfortunately taken into care by social services. Having  little she found that the Capital Card® was able to give her opportunities she would not be able to access otherwise. She found the scheme easy to use and was soon earning points as soon as she was given a cardThe capital card® is similar to a ‘loyalty card’ and is WDP’s way of rewarding those who progress with their recovery journey but awarding points which can be exchanged in the community for many different types of opportunities. This is a story of how one service user used the capital card to give an opportunity to a loved one.

“Your New Capital Card is as easy to use as A. B. C! [You] Get rewarded for engaging in treatment and can treat yourself to something you like or why not even treat the kids if you’re worried and think it’s hard, it’s really not anyone can do it!”

In a selfless move, she spent all the points she earned from the interventions she had attended with one of our spend partners, Arts Depot. Arts Depot is a cultural hub for arts and a theatre in Barnet and provides courses in dance and music. KN ‘purchased’ a 10-week dancing course for her daughter worth over £100 for free with her Capital Card®.


“I signed my daughter up at a place called the Arts Depot for Street Dance Lessons, a 10-week course was only 200 points and took no more than 10 minutes to do”.

The Capital Card® has allowed a mother, with very little, to remind her daughter, that she is not forgotten. The Capital Card® has shown a daughter that her mother is progressing with her recovery and is enduring an arduous journey of recovery to reunite with her.

KN is still progressing well  and is building points to treat her daughter again. With so much offered by Arts Depot and other spend partners such as Everyman Cinema and City Lit available, KN and other users will always have a way to remind their loved ones that they are working towards a life free of substance use.

“My daughter does street dance and she loves it. It can also help you feel good and meet and help you maintain friendships you may have not had before.”

“The best thing is the more you engage the more points you can earn.”


“Take it from me, it’s so worth it! From one service user to all.”



  1. NSPCC, Parental substance misuse: How to support children living with parents who misuse alcohol and drugs, available at:


  1. Martha Canfield, Polly Radcliffe, Sally Marlow, Marggie Boreham, Gail Gilchrist, (2017), Maternal substance use and child protection: a rapid evidence assessment of factors associated with loss of child care, Child Abuse & Neglect 70 (2017) 11-27


  1. Marian Brandon, Peter Sidebotham, Sue Bailey, Pippa Belderson, Carol Hawley, Catherine Ellis & Matthew Megson, (2012), New learning from serious case reviews: a two year report for 2009-2011: Department for Education, available at: