The initial report issued today by the All Party Parliamentary Group [APPG] into the current picture of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder [FASD] has found that the UK is lagging far behind other developed countries in raising awareness of the condition and implementing effective services and strategies to confront the growing challenges posed by FASD.
FASD is a condition caused when a person is exposed to alcohol in the womb, leaving the person with a range of physical, behavioural and cognitive difficulties for the rest of their life. The World Health Organisation estimate that FASD affects 1% of people born today although in some critical areas the numbers could be significantly higher.
Conducted over the autumn, the Inquiry heard evidence from Martin Clarke of TACT, Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Raja Mukherjee, Professor Sir Al Aynsley Green, SAB Miller plc and British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Public Health Research Midwife, Anne-Marie Winstone, as well as parents, carers and individuals living with FASD.
The Inquiry heard of the confusion caused to midwives and pregnant women as a result of conflicting advice on alcohol consumption in pregnancy given to them by NICE, Department of Health and the various Royal Medical Colleges. The Inquiry heard reports of families struggling to cope without adequate support for their children, and social workers, teachers and other professionals struggling to know how best to support the increasing number of children with FASD.
The Inquiry noted that while other developed nations such as Canada and the USA have demonstrated the positive impact of promoting clear abstinence guidelines for women during pregnancy, alongside extensive research and public awareness campaigns, such a support structure is sorely absent in the UK and will not be rectified until the government and its affiliated bodies recognise the severity of the issue.
Julia Brown, CEO of The FASD Trust said: "The cost, both economically to the tax payer and emotionally to affected families, is enormous and whilst we continue to ignore this issue, those costs will continue to spiral out of control.
"It should not be the responsibility of parents and carers to fight for support services for their children. Tackling FASD requires a governmental response. Without such a commitment the credibility of FASD as a national issue will continue to be overlooked by the population as a whole."
The Inquiry concluded by recommending a raft of measures for immediate consideration. These included;
· The Department of Health, NICE and the Academy of Royal Colleges adopt a consistent message of, “no alcohol in pregnancy is best for baby and you,”
· Mandatory wording and sizing of warning labels on alcoholic products
· The launch of a public health campaign raising awareness of FASD
· The National Curriculum is revised to warn children of the dangers to unborn babies of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
· Better training for medics, teachers, social workers and other professionals on how to recognise FASD and support those affected.
Bill Esterson, MP for Sefton Central (Lab) and Chair the APPG on FASD, concluded: "This is a completely over-looked crisis in our society. The economic and social impact of FASD uncovered by this Inquiry is overwhelming."
The full report is available for download at www.appg-fasd.org.uk
To read Bill Esterson's speech to parliament on FASD, go to: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2015-12-17a.1784.0&s=speaker%3A24905#g1794.0