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New - Who’s in Charge Campaign

A new video campaign has been launched in response to increasing concerns that growing numbers of babies and children are at risk of serious harm because of the way some parents and carers consume alcohol at home.

A special Thank you to Birmingham Safeguarding Children Partnership, in partnership with Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who have produced the campaign and resource materials, which they have freely shared to all partnerships to raise awareness of the issue and reduce the number of children suffering harm. The resources include a set of short films and posters.

Man asleep on settee after drinking alcohol

(Image and videos courtesy of Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust)

Links to download videos

Been out for a drink - who's in charge?

Staying in to drink - who's in charge?

The campaign – launched in Alcohol Awareness Week – (16-22nd November) - asks adults consuming alcohol at home while responsible for children a simple, but potentially life-saving, question – ‘when you drink, who’s in charge?’

It urges parents, and others with responsibility for children, to be aware of a range of potentially dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol while caring for children.


In the four year period ending in March 2020, 35 babies in the West Midlands region (Birmingham, Black Country, Coventry, Warwickshire, Solihull, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Telford and Wrekin) died while sharing beds or sofas with adults who had consumed more than two units of alcohol (or used illegal drugs).  Two of these deaths were in Herefordshire in 2019-2020.

Now Herefordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership have joined the ‘Who’s in Charge Campaign’ to continue to raise awareness across Herefordshire of the potential dangers of drinking alcohol when caring for children and reduce the number of children suffering harm.

The two-minute videos depict some of the most worrying trends identified locally and nationally, particularly baby deaths connected with sleeping on a sofa or co-sleeping in a bed with an adult who is under the influence of alcohol.

Child safety experts warn of a ‘double jeopardy’ effect - that drinking too much alcohol may not only reduce a parent’s capacity to appropriately respond to children’s needs, but also make the adult who has consumed alcohol an active danger to the child.

In an online speech to the National Children and Adults Services conference in November Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman highlighted growing concern about preventable unexpected infant deaths, citing cases of babies being endangered by not being put down to sleep safely, instead sharing a bed or sofa with a parent or other carer who has been drinking.

More than 300 ‘serious incident notifications’ of injury and death involving children were reported by local authorities between April and October, of which almost 40 per cent involved children under the age of one.

The number of babies in England to have suffered serious injury through abuse or neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic is up by a fifth on the same period last year, Ofsted report. Eight have died from their injuries.

Domestic alcohol consumption has been noted as an increasingly common factor in incidences of children being neglected or harmed. In July, the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel published their second national review of sudden unexpected death in infancy in families where the children are considered at risk of significant harm. 

The Out of Routine report highlights that the sudden and unexpected death of an infant is one of the most devastating tragedies that could happen to any family. In spite of substantial reductions in the incidence of sudden unexpected death in infancy in the 1990s, at least 300 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly each year in England and Wales.

Herefordshire child safeguarding leads warn that children are being placed in danger and even losing their lives because adults – who, in many cases, do not consider themselves excessive drinkers - are not exercising normal levels of care and attention while drinking or recovering from the after-effects of over-indulgence in alcohol.

There are fears that the situation is likely to be worsened by increased domestic alcohol consumption arising from restrictions on licensed premises and social mixing during the pandemic.

The safest place for a baby to sleep is on their back, in their own cot, in a room with their parents. It is never safe for a baby to share a bed or a sofa with anyone who has drunk alcohol or used drugs.

The Who’s in Charge slogan represents the voice of the child watching parents under the influence of alcohol as much as it is a reminder to parents of the need to ask themselves; ‘When you drink, who’s in charge?’  . Just as they would when driving to a social event.

The strong message the Partnership want to get across is to ask that all parents, grandparents and other adults caring for children consider ‘who is in charge?’ if they become incapable of meeting their responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their children while in or out of their home when they have consumed alcohol.

Liz Murphy, Independent Scrutineer and Chair of the Herefordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership said "This campaign is designed to support parents and other adults in the family to know about the tragic consequences that can happen when an adult in charge of a child has been drinking alcohol including children being accidentally smothered. Taking time out as a parent is important  and this campaign is not about telling parents they shouldn’t drink alcohol; instead it is a reminder to think about and plan for  “who will be in charge of the child” when those caring for a child have had a drink. This is because the effects of alcohol, even in small amounts, makes parents/carers less capable of keeping children safe.  

I would ask all parents and family members, as well as those who work with families, to watch the short videos and to help us spread the important and potentially life saving messages".