New Funding For The Family Drugs & Alcohol Court National Unit

The London Family Drugs and Alcohol Court (FDAC), running at the Central Family Court since 2008, helps parents stop and remain free from substance and alcohol abuse, with an aim to keep families together.  It is an alternative form of care proceedings that uses a problem-solving approach enabling parents to be reunited with their children.

Research published by the Brunel and Lancaster University and Ryan Tunnard Brown concluded that the outcomes for children and families through FDAC are more cost effective and better for parents.

With high rates of reunited families, with 44% of children in London FDAC reunited with their parents within the last year and research showing that mothers are 53% more likely to stop their substance abuse when working with FDAC, the model appears to be a successful one.

FDAC uses a collaborative approach, bringing together teams that would normally work separately; such as mental health, safeguarding and substance misuse teams, along with judges who have regular contact with the same families.   The coming together of these teams and the judge to problem solve, allows a chance for the best possible outcome for the family.

Judge Nicholas Crichton, District Judge for FDAC commented that the FDAC process:

“Is a respectful process which parents engage on a regularly … with the same judge, who gets to understand them and their problems, and they will have an opportunity to talk to them about their difficulties in a process to try and help turn their lives around.”

This collaborative approach enables parents and families to have more stability, to build a personal relationship with the judge as well as feel more included in their case, rather than being a faceless case in the court system.  It also allows judges to understand better the family’s unique difficulties as well as seeing the efforts families go to to be reunited.

FDAC looks to solve more entrenched problems, often inter-generational, and break cycles that lead to the difficulties parents and families face.  Each case has an intervention plan developed that is tailored to their unique circumstances.  It is seen as a fairer process for parents and families who wish to work closely with the various teams, to improve their situations and be reunited with their children, as well as giving motivation and the support to better themselves.

Sir James Mundy, President of the Family Division feels that it is:

“the interaction between the judge and the problem-solving team that is absolutely crucial.”

The FDAC National Unit, after being established in 2015 and networked over 13 courts across the UK, was forced to close late in 2018 due to a lack of Government funding, however a group of private backers have pledged £280,000 to fund a new national partnership to extend the FDAC model across the family justice system.

Philip Bowed, Director of the Centre for Justice Innovation said:

“We now have the means to reinvigorate efforts to spread the benefits of the model far wider…and support for FDACs to carry out their work well into the future.”

With a six month funded trial having begun in April 2019, we eagerly await the results to a model that will hopefully continue at a national level, to help alleviate what the Ministry of Justice described as ‘a crisis in children’s social care and the family justice sector.’

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