Kim Thompson is an adult and child support worker for the charity Oasis, which helps the families of those who misuse drugs and alcohol.
Oasis, based in Westgate, Grantham, recently began offering support to children who are struggling to cope with the alcohol and drug problems of those around them. The Journal spoke to Kim about the new service.
l What was the reasoning behind extending the service Oasis offers to children?
The demand to work with children was always there but we did not have the means to do it. We were getting phone calls saying ‘can you work with this child?’ So it was always one of Oasis’ wishes to do that and now it’s something we can offer. We have had children ring up themselves and parents of children. There are no restrictions on what age we can work with them. We work with them around their feelings.
Often they ask ‘is it my fault?’ And often they are quite frightened as to what the future holds. Often the children we work with are in caring roles themselves, responsible for mum or dad or siblings.
l What kind of impact can being around those struggling with drug and alcohol misuse have on children?
It does have a huge, huge impact on children. Some times they are self-harming, there could be eating disorders. The impact on those children is massive. They are so worried about telling people and getting in trouble. There’s always that stigma - ‘will I get into trouble? Will they take me away from my parents?’
It affects their concentration so they can’t concentrate at school and they are quite unhappy at home so don’t want to socialise. But we look at things we can put in place to make home life easier for them.
l Are you seeing much need for a children’s service?
We have been quite busy with the children’s work. We can go in to school to see them and it can be done discreetly so none of their friends find out. It’s free, confidential and there is no limit on the number of times we can offer support - we can stay in contact as long as we need to.
l Do you think becoming involved early can help stop children falling into the same traps as their parents?
I think a lot of the children we have met have been so frightened by what they see they are totally against drink and drugs because it frightens them. It’s frightening for them, especially the younger ones. I think the youngest I have worked with is five.
l Is making that first contact with Oasis the toughest part? I think there’s a lot of fear from people who don’t want to admit there’s a problem - they are frightened. They think ‘what would people think of me and my family?’ It’s not always something you can talk to your nearest and dearest about.
l Can the festive period be a particularly challenging time when dealing with drug and alcohol issues?
I think, with there being a lot of celebrations, it’s quite easy for people to, sort of, over-indulge. We work closely with the Addaction and the DART team who do a fantastic job with the people with the problems but around those people there are always the family and friends and we are here for them.