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National recognition for success in supporting families overcoming alcohol dependency

A programme focused on supporting families living with the effects of alcohol dependency in St Helens Borough has been hailed nationally.

Child and adult holding hand

Article date: 13 June 2023

The St Helens Building Bridges programme has featured as an example of good practice in a national evaluation published by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

St Helens is one of nine areas across the country who were awarded national Innovation Funding from DHSC and the Department of Work and Pensions to develop new ways to identify and support children whose parents are alcohol dependent and reduce family conflict.

The St Helens Building Bridges programme is delivered by Change Grow Live (CGL) who are commissioned by St Helens Borough Council to support adults with drugs or alcohol problems. Building Bridges was initially launched in 2018 and has helped train more than 1,200 professionals, including social workers, GPs, health visitors, student social workers, as well as schools and has assessed more than 2,000 families for alcohol dependency. This has resulted in more than 400 parents getting treatment for their alcohol dependency who would not have without the programme.

The national evaluation report provides examples of the work being done by St Helens Building Bridges and how it has improved the lives of children and their families including:

·       How services have worked together to identify and support families where there is parental alcohol dependency - through co-location of services, having dedicated staff to work with families and having supportive leaders who encourage services to work together to meet the needs of families.

·       How support has been provided for whole families, not just the parents in isolation as often happens in more traditional ways of working. The work has also been really successful in helping to reduce parental conflict.

·       There is now easier access to treatment and support for more parents and their families. This has helped to improve family relationships and the wellbeing of both parents and their children. Children have reported that they feel happier at home and more able to focus at school.

Councillor Anthony Burns, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage, said: "Building Bridges has transformed the lives of many of our families across the borough by breaking down the stigma for parents to reach out for help. The programme has made an impact by showing the impact of their drinking, give them skills to reduce conflict and improve family relationships, and as a result improved not just their physical and mental health but has improved other areas of their life like money management skills.

"This ultimately means that children are being kept safe, keeping families together and has given children a voice to work together to build better relationships with their parents. That stable family life has so many positives for the whole family but especially giving children the chance to have better wellbeing, improved their ability to attend school and break the cycle of alcohol dependency across generations. It's no surprise that Building Bridges has been recognised nationally for transforming lives."

Rachel Fance, Service Manager, St Helens Integrated Recovery Service (Change Grow Live) said: "We are thrilled to have been part of this innovation programme to recognise and support whole families affected by alcohol dependency. It has enabled the service to develop beyond traditional boundaries and really help the families to achieve change together.

"The positive feedback from families, parents and children on how this programme has changed their lives has been overwhelming and we are pleased and grateful that St Helens Public Health Team have ensured that this type of support will still be available for families in the longer term.

"Being a part of this project has far exceeded the benefits we expected, this is testament to the willingness of local organisations to work together, a committed staff team who forge trusting relationships and the determination of our St Helens families to overcome the difficulties they face.

"We want to remove the barriers parents often face when accessing support including fear, shame and stigma and therefore would encourage people to reach out if support is needed.

"If you are worried about your own or someone else's alcohol or drugs use help is available at St Helens Integrated Recovery Service you can contact us on 01744 410 752, email us at, alternatively you can attend our service in person and talk to someone in person."

The independent evaluation for the Children of Alcohol Dependent Parents Programme can be found here: Evaluation of the Children of Alcohol Dependent Parents programme innovation fund - GOV.UK (