Better Care

Going out to drink? Who's in Charge?

Click here to download and use this video with permission of copyright holders (Birmingham Community Healthcare and Birmingham Safeguarding Children Parrtnership). 

To coincide with the easing of lockdown restrictions on Monday, 12 April, a hard-hitting video campaign is urging adults to remember to ask the critical question ‘Who’s in Charge?’ if they plan to drink alcohol while responsible for children.

Members of two households are allowed to have outdoor gatherings in parks and other public spaces such as bars, pubs and restaurants in England from today. While welcoming the benefits to physical and mental wellbeing, public health experts are urging adults to be responsible when drinking alcohol in a multi-generational group and maintain awareness of the safety of children in their care.

The campaign from the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Partnership and Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust was 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 – both at home and at outdoor gatherings.

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 and to always have a ready answer to the question ‘’Who’s in Charge?’

The latest video shows how a carefree picnic in a park might result in harm to a child if adults’ supervisory faculties are lessened by alcohol.

The video is the latest in a series of short films depicting real life child harm scenarios, such as 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.

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.

Dr Joanna Garstang is a consultant community paediatrician at Birmingham Community Healthcare and a designated doctor responsible for overseeing the review of all child deaths in Birmingham.

She said: “It’s geat that we’re all going out for picnics and able to enjoy socialising with friends again but it is vital that adults remember to keep a close watch on young children.

“This 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 each other ‘who’s in charge of the children?’ as they would when asking ‘who will drive?’ when going to a social event.

“The strong message we 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.”

Penny Thompson CBE, independent chair of Birmingham Safeguarding Children Partnership said: “The safety and wellbeing of children should always be uppermost in the minds of adults, whether acting in the role of professional or parent.

"There is nothing wrong with parents relaxing and enjoying themselves. In fact it is important that parents get some time to themselves. But, the reality is that our capability to keep children safe from harm is significantly reduced with every alcoholic drink; and, at a certain level of intoxication, adults become a live risk themselves.

“I would urge any adult who may drink while responsible for a child to ask themselves the simple question ‘who’s in charge?’. Parents having a drink together need to ask it of each other; and, most powerfully of all, I would ask every parent or carer to hear in this simple enquiry the quiet voice of the child who needs comfort or care.

“This campaign has come about through Birmingham-based professionals’ commitment to keeping children safe from harm but we sincerely hope the message will be picked up far and wide because these issues are of concern in every kind of community.”

Click here for Who’s in Charge? information and resources 


Useful links

Birmingham Safeguarding Children Partnership

Co-ordinates how agencies work together to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children and young people in Birmingham

Birmingham Community Healthcare safeguarding children team

Welcomes enquiries from professionals and members of the public about all matters concerning the health, wellbeing and safety of children in Birmingham. If you are interested in training or other awareness raising opportunities using the Who's In Charge? materials and messages, please email

NHS Alcohol Support

Advice, support and resources for dealing with alcohol problems

Alcohol Change UK

Works to improve people's lives through reducing the harm caused by alcohol


Free confidential support for anyone with - or affected by someone else's - alcohol, drugs or gambling problems.