The Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, is calling for a better understanding of the issues facing children and young people who live with an alcoholic.
The Commissioner’s call coincides with the broadcast of S4C’s powerful documentary O’r Galon: Yr Hardys – Un Dydd ar y Tro (From the Heart: The Hardys – One Day at a Time) on Sunday 1 December 8.30pm (English subtitles).
The programme follows 28 year old presenter Geraint Hardy, and his father, broadcaster John Hardy, as they explore openly for the first time the huge impact of Geraint's mother’s alcoholism on the family. Geraint Hardy was only 6 years old when his mother, Carol, started drinking heavily.
Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler said:
"The effects of substance misuse on children cannot be underestimated, whether it be alcohol or drugs, it can have a devastating effect on children who have to deal with it silently, on a daily basis, behind four walls. Programmes of this kind are crucial in raising awareness and it takes courage to speak about issues which can often be seen as taboo subjects for families.
"In Wales, services for children and young people affected by parental substance misuse have improved. The Integrated Family Support Services (IFSS) is unique to Wales and concentrates on families where there is parental substance misuse, to take positive steps to improve their lives."
S4C’s O’r Galon: Yr Hardys – Un Dydd ar y Tro is part of a season of programmes on the Channel about alcoholism, drugs, and the battle to break free from dependency.
On the programme Geraint, who is a regular face on S4C and a radio presenter on Capital FM, recalls how he became accustomed to dealing with the problem at a very young age.
"Mam was drunk every night. But every day I went to school and lived life with a smile and then went home and dealt with the secret. You just didn’t tell anyone," he says.
"We were just like robots; we knew what our job was. We knew we had to get the gin, hide the gin. We’d empty the bottles and then refill them with water, because mam was so drunk we hoped that she wouldn’t notice it was water."
Their father, John Hardy played a vital role in Carol’s recovery and was a rock to the children, but due to the nature of his work was away a lot of the time with work so the task of caring for their mum, Carol Hardy, often fell to Geraint and his older brother Daniel.
"It was almost like a game," says Geraint. "We had to keep it within the four walls of our house and to keep mam safe.
"I didn’t know any different at the time, but looking back, I remember crying myself to sleep so many nights. I was lonely, but I just thought that that’s how life was."
Carol has fought hard to be free from alcohol and has succeeded in doing so for years. Geraint is now determined to speak out and share their family’s experience to raise awareness and understanding of the condition, and to hopefully help other children who are in a similar situation today who need help themselves.
"Alcoholism is an illness, and we should be speaking more openly about it to ensure that those who suffer, and their families, get the help they need," says Geraint.
O’r Galon: Yr Hardys – Un Dydd ar y Tro, Sunday 1 December at 8.30pm on S4C. English Subtitles Available