National Association for Children of Alcoholics (United Kingdom)

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National Association for Children of Alcoholics
Founded 1990
Founders Hilary Henriques, Valerie McGee, Maya Parker, Diana Samways and David Stafford
Registration no. 1009143
  • Bristol
Area served
United Kingdom
Product Telephone helpline, Email helpline, Publications
Key people
Hilary Henriques
(Chief Executive)
Affiliations Member of The Helplines Association
2 full-time and 2 part-time

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) is a charity in the United Kingdom providing information and support for everyone affected by their parent’s drinking through a free, confidential telephone and email helpline.[1] Nacoa is a registered charity in England and Wales - charity number 1009143.[2]


Nacoa was founded in 1990 "to address the needs of children growing up in families where one or both parents suffer from alcoholism or a similar addictive problem".[3] This includes children of alcoholics of all ages, many of whose problems only become apparent in adulthood.

The founders were Hilary Henriques, Valerie McGee, Maya Parker, Diana Samways and David Stafford.


In order to help meet the needs of children affected by parental alcohol problems, Nacoa has four broad aims:[3]

  • To offer information, advice and support to children of alcohol-dependent parents
  • To reach professionals who work with these children
  • To raise their profile in the public consciousness
  • To promote research into:
  1. The particular problems faced by those who grow up with parental alcoholism
  2. The prevention of alcoholism developing in this vulnerable group of children


Research suggests that 2.05 million adults in the UK claimed they had been brought up in a family where one (or both) parents drank too much. Thirty percent (840,000 people) said that this affected them "very badly" during childhood. Seventy-one percent (1,988,000 people) said they needed someone to talk to who understood the problem of alcoholism, when they were children.[4] A 2002 study found that children of alcoholics experienced mental-health problems, considered suicide, suffered from eating disorders, experienced drug or alcohol addiction themselves and had been in trouble with the police more than control groups.[5]

A more recent study by Manning et al. suggests there are 2.6 million children in the UK (1 in 5) living with a parent who drinks hazardously.[6]

In 2012, Nacoa was involved in a research project for the Children's Commissioner for England reviewing needs and services for children and families affected by parental alcohol misuse.[7] In the report the Children’s Commissioner highlights the need for services to support children and their families and suggests that “the misuse of alcohol by parents negatively affects the lives and harms the wellbeing of more children than does the misuse of illegal drugs”.


Nacoa provides information, advice and support for children of alcohol-dependent parents and people concerned for their welfare.[2] This is provided primarily through a free, confidential telephone and email helpline and website. The helpline is staffed by trained volunteers. Nacoa also produces a range of publications for children (including ‘Some mums and dads drink too much and it’s frightening’ and ‘Information for children of alcohol-dependent parents’), parents and professionals.[8] Nacoa raises awareness of the problems faced by children living with parental addiction and the support available through media articles and by delivering delivers talks, for example in schools and to other professional agencies and community organisations. Nacoa is a regular exhibitor at the UK and European Symposium on Addictive Disorders (UKESAD) organised by the alcohol and drug treatment journal Addiction Today.[9] To commemorate the life of co-founder and author David Stafford, Nacoa holds an annual David Stafford memorial lecture in London. Previous speakers have included Lauren Booth, Bill Gallagher, Virginia Ironside, Fergal Keane and David Yelland.


Nacoa relies entirely on voluntary donations. As a membership organisation some of these donations come by way of annual subscriptions. A significant proportion of income comes through people take part in sponsored events. Many people now collect sponsorship online using sites such as Justgiving. Recent sponsored events have included the Avon Gorge Abseil, the Great North Run, the Bristol Half Marathon, the Edinburgh Marathon, a London to Paris bike ride, skydiving and a sponsored haircut. Nacoa was the recipient of the BBC Radio 4 Appeal in 2003.

Nacoa has been the charity partner of Upfest, Europe’s largest street art festival, since the festival’s beginning in 2008.[10]


In June 2012 Nacoa was awarded the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.[11] The award, which is the equivalent an MBE, recognises outstanding achievement by groups of volunteers. Nacoa also received the prestigious Guardian Charity Award in 2006.[12]

Other recognitions include being awarded the Meritorious Service Award 2012 by NACoA USA[13] and the Mentor UK Certificate of merit in 2008. Nacoa’s CEO Hilary Henriques was awarded the Women of the Year Outstanding Achievement Award in 2009.[14] Nacoa is an accredited member of The Helplines Association.[15]


Nacoa’s work featured on BBC Comic Relief's Red Nose Day broadcast in 2009.[16] Later in 2009, Nacoa’s work featured on the BBC Children in Need film ‘Brought Up By Booze’ where Nacoa patron Calum Best, son of footballer George Best, explored the effect of his father’s drinking on his life and met other children in the UK living in similar situations.[17] Nacoa’s CEO, Hilary Henriques, featured as one of fourteen women from across the world in Comic Relief’s publication ‘Inspiring Women’ printed in 2010.



Independent organisations have been set up around the word with similar aims. These include NACoA in the United States, NACOA Deutschland in Germany, Nacoa Brasil in Brazil and NACOA POLSKA in Poland.

COA Week[edit]

Nacoa launched the first Children of Alcoholics Week (COA Week) in the UK in 2009.[18] The week is held annually in February during the week in which Valentine's Day falls and is celebrated internationally. The week raises awareness of children affected by parental alcohol problems and the support available.[19] Supporters of the week include Nacoa’s patrons and other well-known people such as Belinda Carlisle, Sheila Hancock Sir Ben Kingsley, Prue Leith, Cherie Lunghi, Marco Pierre White, Craig Revel Horwood, Kim Woodburn and Antony Worrall Thompson.[20]

To celebrate COA Week 2011, Nacoa released their first charity single, a cover of the Sam Cooke classic ‘A change is gonna come’ sung by Maria McAteer (daughter of Al Timothy) with piano and arrangement by Bjorn Dahlberg and strings by the Stanford Quartet.[21] The music video for the single made by Sean Caveille was filmed in Bristol and featured Nacoa volunteers.[22]


  1. ^ "Nacoa - The National Association for Children of Alcoholics - Home". 
  2. ^ a b "Register Home Page". 
  3. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-10. Retrieved 2012-06-07. 
  4. ^ Neilson (1992). "Quantification study to obtain and measure the size and scale of the problem of alcoholism in UK". Archived from the original on 2012-12-24. 
  5. ^ Callingham, M. (2002). "Initial findings of a study to investigate the extent and nature of the problem of adults who grew up in a home with alcoholic parents" (PDF). [permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Manning, V., Best, D.W., Faulkner, N. & Titherington, E. (2009). New estimates of the number of children living with substance misusing parents: results from UK national household surveys. BMC Public Health, 9, 377-389.
  7. ^ Adamson, J.; Templeton, L. (2012). "Silent Voices - Supporting children and young people affected by a parental alcohol misuse". 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Europe's largest Street Art & Graffiti festival - Upfest". Archived from the original on 2012-08-04. 
  11. ^ "Supplement No. 2" (PDF). The Stationery Office Limited (2012). The London Gazette. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-12. 
  12. ^ Alison Benjamin. "Guardian Charity Awards winners 2006". the Guardian. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Previous winners". Archived from the original on 2012-10-20. 
  15. ^ "Helplines Partnership - The body for Helplines in the UK". Helplines Partnership. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Film - True Vision". 
  18. ^ "BBC - Bristol - Focus on children of alcoholics". 
  19. ^ "Children of Alcoholics Week 14-20 February 2016". 
  20. ^ "Celeb support - Children of Alcoholics Week 14-20 February 2016". 
  21. ^ "Maria McAteer - NACOA UK Charity Single - A Change Is Gonna Come - CD Baby Music Store". 
  22. ^ Nacoa - A Change Is Gonna Come. 10 February 2011 – via YouTube. 

External links[edit]