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Project information

Breaking the Cycle (BtC)

Children who grow up in families where there is drug and alcohol addiction are 7 times more likely to become addicts themselves. Breaking the Cycle helps vulnerable children through targeted interventions that enable the whole family to recover, thereby breaking the cycle of addiction.

5 Years

Charity information: Addaction

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  • Need


    Over 1.3 million children in the UK grow up in families where drug and alcohol addiction is part of everyday family life. Such children are vulnerable to neglect, lack of structure and isolation. Perhaps forced to care for siblings and parents, an unfair burden can be put on them from an early age. This often has a damaging impact on emotional development, academic achievement and life opportunities. In fact, these children are 7 times more likely to become addicts themselves in later life.


    As the leading drug and alcohol treatment charity in the UK, Addaction understands the challenges in supporting the whole family in their recovery from addiction and the need to innovate to help children at risk. Our specialist Breaking the Cycle workers provide individually designed care packages that include a range of services to help people overcome their problems such as interventions, one to one counselling, help with housing, health and support for families to turn their lives around.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To support and empower families with parents who have substance misuse issues.


    » Deliver one-to-one treatment sessions that help parents to end or reduce their dependency on drugs or alcohol.
    » Provide emergency help to families in areas such as safeguarding children, domestic violence, threatened evictions, child custody and managing debt.
    » Implement individual support that safeguards the well-being of children, reduces their feelings of insecurity and improves their school attendance.
    » Deliver family mediation sessions that improve communication, raise parenting standards and set clear boundaries .

    What success will look like

    BtC is grounded on independent evaluation. The approach includes the development of the first ‘family outcome measurement tool’ for substance misuse treatment services in the UK

    Aim 2

    To create a family environment in which children can thrive.


    » Work directly with vulnerable children through coordination with partner agencies and schools.
    » Provide systemic family therapy that puts the whole family at the heart of the recovery journey.
    » Devise a tailored support package that meets specific family needs.

    What success will look like

    Success will be 80%+ of engaged parents reducing their drug or alcohol use; 80%+ reporting improved parenting skills and 80%+ prioritising their children’s health and needs.

    Aim 3

    Ensure that every child, regardless of background or circumstances, has the support they need.


    » Deliver specialist branches of the project that are targeted to community needs.
    » Ensure Breaking the Cycle workers have the skills to intervene, understand and gain the trust of targeted community groups.

    What success will look like

    The continuation of existing and launch of new project elements that meet both family and community needs in terms of language, communication and understanding.

  • Impact


    We know that children are the invisible victims of substance misuse - growing up in a family affected by parental drinking and drug taking makes a child 7 times more likely to develop their own dependency problems in later life. Breaking the Cycle is designed to interrupt this pattern. By enabling families to tackle problems together, we aim to prevent at risk children from becoming addicts in later life.


    Sustainable project funding is a significant risk. We are working in partnership with Zurich Community Trust to ensure longer term delivery of BtC. A primary operational risk is that BtC will not be integrated into the support services offered by other agencies working with problem families. Addaction has long been active in local communities and are tackling this issue by working closely with the local authorities, police, social services and other agencies to ensure a co-ordinated approach


    BtC reporting will be donor led. However Addaction are keen to update supporters regularly both on overall project progress and individual families that have been helped by telephone, email and post. There will also be limited opportunities to attend BtC face to face events.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £46,087

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £30,983 Staff and service user costs Salary for Breaking the Cycle workers and service user expenses at two sites
      £15,104 Office costs Office space, IT equipment, communications, stationery, publicity work for two sites

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Zurich Community Trust £30,000 Guaranteed
  • Background


    Initially 3 pilot sites, in Tower Hamlets, Derby and West Cumbria, were selected to test the efficacy and feasibility of family interventions via BtC. Following the success of these pilots, the project has already been extended to Cambridgeshire and there are plans to expand BtC to a further 16 sites within 2012.


    To date, across all sites, Breaking the Cycle has worked with 1,002 families - 852 families have been successfully discharged and 150 families are currently working with the service. BtC sites are carefully selected on the basis of need. It is important to note that the service impacts positively on the wider community as well as children and their families.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Addaction is one of the UK’s leading drug and alcohol treatment
    charities, supporting people and their families since 1967. We work with all kinds of people, from all walks of life, and we know that addiction doesn't just affect individuals - it also causes pain and problems for their friends, their family and - more often than not - their children. We passionately believe that with the right help people can turn their lives around and rebuild their families. We provide that help every day.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Helena O’Connell

    Working her way up from Project Worker, Helena has front line experience of the challenges families face due to drug and alcohol addiction.

    Bianca Horn

    Bianca is a Systemic Family Therapist who has worked for Addaction as a BtC worker for more than three years in Tower Hamlets.

    Tim Vanstone

    Currently Head of BtC, Tim has 13 years experience of working within drug and alcohol treatment for Addaction.

    Zurich Community Trust

    A valued Addaction partner, following the proven success of the BtC pilot, The Trust has has committed £1.8 million to BtC over a five year period.

Tom's 8th Birthday

'We’ve worked on my drinking, not just for me but for the children. The children are happier now.'