Children advised to leave snacks out for addict parents to cut fire risk


CHILDREN living with drink and drug addicted parents are being advised to leave food out for them to cut the risk of fires in the home.

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service is working with teachers to get 11-and-12-year-old kids to leave snacks out for their parents to prevent them putting on a chip pan after a night out.

Figures show that around 65,000 children in Scotland live with addict parents.

As part of the fire safety package, children are also told to remember where the house keys are in case they have to escape.

In 2009-10, 51 people died in house fires in Scotland and 1,010 were injured.

More than 500 fires were caused by unattended chip pans, and it is now the third most common cause of fires in the home.

But the move has been slammed by experts who say children should not have to be responsible for their parents.

Professor Neil McKeganey, director for the Centre of Drug Misuse in Glasgow, said: “The number of children neglected by addict parents is one of our most vital social issues.

“Asking them to look after their parents to prevent them dying in house fires is too much responsibility to put on them.

“I don’t disapprove of the fire service giving this advice – but we have to make these parents see their responsibilities.”

He added that the Scottish Government’s drugs strategy puts too much emphasis on the needs of addicts, rather than on their children’s safety.

A spokesman for Strathclyde Fire and Rescue said: “We work with social work and education authorities to make contact with disadvantaged families who are among the most vulnerable to fire in the home.

“It’s unfortunate that children may be effectively caring for their parents but this is one more reason to pass on the fire safety message to youngsters.”

A spokeswoman for Children First said: “There are 65,000 Scots children living with substance abuse parents.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s attention to addressing this but more can be done to stop young lives being wrecked.

“It’s important that children know how to keep themselves safe, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect them.”

The Millennium Cohort Study shows Scots parents are the most likely in the UK to abuse drugs.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Decisions about whether a child should be taken into care or remain in the home must be based on the best interests of the child and with a principle of safety first.

“As part of our national review of child protection procedures, we’ve recently published guidance that provides the framework to help all local agencies ensure the best possible protection for children, including those affected by parental alcohol and drug misuse.

“We’re updating specific guidance for professionals working with such families, with the aim of publishing a draft for consultation later this year.”