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Children of drunks ring helpline for bedtime story

A children’s helpline received 32,000 calls and emails last year – with kids as young as five asking to be read bedtime stories because their parents were too drunk to put them to bed.

Some children call the National Association for Children of Alcoholics so regularly that counsellors keep a pile of their favourite books by the phone.

One child, a seven-year-old girl who called on Christmas Day while hiding from her drunk parents under her bed, asked to be told a story about her imaginary friend – a dog called Bruce.

The charity also helped a five-year-old girl whose addict mum locked herself in the bathroom overnight and was found dead by paramedics.

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Image Caption: According to a parliamentary group there are 2.5 million children of alcoholics in the UK

Disney, Horrid Henry and Roald Dahl are among the most requested tales.

The charity’s CEO, Hilary Henriques, said children also liked made-up stories, “because this helps to get across the message that things can be different from the life they live at the moment”.

An all-party parliamentary group, led by Labour MPs Liam Byrne and Caroline Flint, has called for action to fight what they call a “secret scandal”.

Their manifesto, aimed to help the 2.5 million children of alcoholics in the UK, has also received backing from the Archbishop of Canterbury and Calum Best, both of whom grew up with alcoholic fathers.

They are calling on the Government to come up with a national strategy to deal with the issue, as well as to reduce the promotion of alcohol, particularly to children.

Children of alcoholics have been shown to be four times more likely to become heavy drinkers themselves, five times more likely to develop an eating disorder and three times more likely to consider suicide.

This week has marked Children of Alcoholics Week, calling attention to the one in five children under the age of 18 who are exposed to a family alcohol problem.

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