Award winning court to help more families across the country stay together safely

Wednesday 18th February 2014 Ref: PR016.15 *




Award winning court to help more families across the country stay together safely


The Department for Education announce funding today to support the roll out of more specialist Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC) across England.


In a classroom of 30, as many as three children will be living with a parent dependent on alcohol and we can expect to see one living with a parent dependent on drugs1 .

With 11,000 new cases in England and Wales the human and financial costs of care proceedings are huge, estimated at £1, 000m2 per year.


FDAC is radical, yet obvious. Rooted in the idea of problem-solving justice, it offers demonstrably better outcomes for children and families. FDAC also offers a way to relieve the mounting economic pressure on services, which would otherwise be under considerable strain where traditional care proceedings are in play.


Parental substance misuse is the leading preventable cause of child abuse and neglect and for these children at risk; FDAC offers an evidence-based alternative form of care proceedings which is proven to have better outcomes3 . More mothers and fathers stop misusing drugs and alcohol; fewer parents relapse; more parents resume the care of their children; there is less abuse and neglect after return home; and reunification lasts longer.


The funding offered by the Department for Education (DfE) through the innovation programme will see the development of a National FDAC Development Unit. Comprised of practitioners, policy makers and researchers, the national unit will be dedicated to nurturing new specialist drug and alcohol courts across the country. The National Unit will be based at the Coram Campus, where FDAC London is currently situated. It is led by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust supported by a group of partner organisations (Centre for Justice Innovation, Coram, Brunel University London, The University of Manchester and RyanTunnardBrown). Each partner organisation will bring a distinct set of skills and expertise to support the unit, making the unit a dynamic, responsive and innovative enterprise.


The national roll out of the pioneering court responds to President Munby’s call for increased provision of this “vital” service across England and paves a way to respond to an increasing demand from local authorities and the judiciary across the country.


This interest will take the learning around FDAC further: to test and evaluate the FDAC model in new regions, with new populations, and as a possible solution to new problems. This rollout will enable FDAC to extend knowledge about how to avoid and reverse the negative impact on children of a parent’s alcohol, drug and related problems.


Last year, research4 by a team at Brunel University funded by the Nuffield Foundation highlighted that FDAC has been found to be nearly twice as successful at keeping families together as traditional court proceedings. It found FDAC had helped 35% of mothers become reunited with children, compared with 19% in the ordinary family courts.


The continuous support, considerable investment and leadership by the Department for Education (DfE) has seen FDAC continue to grow and develop its model. Since establishing in London seven years ago, FDAC has flourished and grown into a worldclass innovation that is proven to work with families that suffer from parental substance misuse. Since 2007, the momentum around FDAC has been growing at a pace, and has spread from three to six London boroughs and is now established further afield – in Gloucester, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire5 and opening on the 7th April in East Sussex.


The FDAC National Development Unit’s ambition will see an estimated £2.5million of funding to help support the first year of FDAC in potentially 8 new sites. Kent & Medway; Coventry; Plymouth; Torbay & Exeter; Leeds & West Yorkshire; are all committed to opening FDACs in the financial year 2015/16 and to having close links with the existing FDACs. Local authority partners are secured for scaling-up, each having committed matched funding for 2015/16 and each local authority will be working closely with the unit to develop sustainability plans to support each new FDAC.


The learning and implementation of FDAC will continue nationally and the model will be tested and evaluated at every FDAC site across the country. As the unit supports implementation of new sites in new areas, the focus of the unit will be ensuring that the capacity for learning is ‘designed into’ each new FDAC. The work of the unit with these sites will include helping develop a detailed analysis of the nature and geographical spread of need for FDAC within their area, map the availability of the treatment services need to respond to the demand identified, and help assemble local multi-disciplinary intervention teams.


Vitally, FDAC has the support of the family justice system as a solution that works. It has been cited as an example of excellence in the Home Office’s Drug Strategy 2010 and the Munro Review of Child Protection 2011. The Family Justice Review praises FDAC and recommended further roll-out. Since its conception, FDAC has won a number of prestigious awards. It has won awards from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Law Society, the British Medical Journal Group, The Guardian newspaper, among others.


The President of the Family Division describes FDAC as “a vital component in the new Family Court”6 and is committing judicial resources to make FDAC more available. In a letter to FDAC about the innovation bid, President Munby praised the model and said:


“In my view the FDAC model appeals to both the heart and to the head. It is a mix of compassion, firmness and clear-eyed assessment of the parent’s realistic chances of achieving rehabilitation. The process delivers better outcomes for the children and the parents subject to it and achieves this in a manner which respects the humanity of the parent.”


Children and Family Minister, Edward Timpson, who spent ten years as a family barrister, said:


“I know from my years at the Bar that when it comes to supporting our most vulnerable and troubled families, there isn’t a one-size-fits all approach. Families need tailored and personalised support to help them stay together and thrive.


“Since 2008, the Family Drug and Alcohol Court has thrown an invaluable lifeline to hundreds upon hundreds of families, helping parents shut the door on destructive behaviour and making sure everyone is working towards the best possible outcome for the child – a safe and stable family.


“Extending the Court’s work further will deliver real, life-changing results for families across the country and I look forward to seeing how the scheme develops over the coming months.”


District Judge Nick Crichton whose vision led to the setting up of FDAC in the country, said: “FDAC is a problem solving court. In the FDAC, we have seen some parents demonstrate a remarkable capacity to change in response to our more constructive, empathetic approach.”


Sophie Kershaw, Co-director of the National FDAC Development Unit, said: “FDAC’s focus is around problem solving and collaboration. It strengthens parents’ motivation to overcome their problems and it gets families working successfully with social workers, adult treatment teams and judges in court. Families get every possible support and treatment.


The aim of the National FDAC Development Unit will be to support the new FDAC sites to be fully sustainable by the end of March 2016, much like the London FDAC has achieved for the past three years.”


Professor Judith Harwin, Brunel University London, who led the independent evaluation of FDAC and will be carrying out research within the FDAC National Development Unit said:


“An independent five year FDAC evaluation funded by the Nuffield Foundation found that FDAC is effective in helping to break the cycle of harm caused by parental substance misuse. FDAC helped more parents to stop misusing alcohol and drugs than parents who went through ordinary care proceedings and more children were reunited with their parents. Rates of neglect or abuse in the first year following reunification were lower amongst FDAC families than those who had gone through ordinary care proceedings. This approach helps reduce the number of children taken into care and enables more families to stay together. This is a brilliant example of how research, policy and service development are working together to intercept the corrosive cycle of parental substance misuse.”


Dr Karen Broadhurst, University of Manchester, who is part of the new Unit and has a special interest in repeat removals research, said:


“We need to be attentive to the impact of the court process on parents as well as children – timely decisions about permanence for children are absolutely vital but we must at the same time, consider the healing potential of the court for parents otherwise they can be locked in a pattern of repeat care proceedings. The FDAC model is a therapeutic approach that has shown it can deliver very promising results for the whole family (whether children are returned to parents care or not) and its wider roll out is a hugely important step forward.”


Renuka Jeyarajah-Dent, Director of Operations, Coram, said:


“Birth parents feel involved and understood in a process that actively offers help in order to make sure that action is taken to help them keep their children and, if this is not possible, to part with them in the most supportive way.”


Phil Bowen, Director, Centre for Justice Innovation who advises on policy said:


“The specialist family and drug and alcohol court is a proven way of using the authority of the court to motivate people to change. This type of court has been found to be effective at tackling entrenched addiction problems and other difficulties so that parents equip themselves to be just that – parents for their children. The family drug and alcohol court also saves money: shorter court hearings, fewer legal representatives at hearings, fewer contested cases, less use of foster care placements during and after proceedings. We hope today’s announcement will provide a boost for the less-well known specialist courts in other parts of the justice system to reduce crime and reduce the harm caused to communities.”


Mary Ryan and Jo Tunnard (RyanTunnardBrown) who contribute to research and development said:


“We are delighted to be contributing to the work of the National FDAC Development Unit given our long commitment to improving the experience of care proceedings for children, parents and professionals.”


*** ENDS ***


For more information please contact: Kate Summerside, Interim Head of Communications at; 020 7520 0346

1 National Survey of Drug Use and Health 2009

2 Cafcass, Family Justice Review 2011

3 and 4 For more information about the ‘Changing Lifestyles, Keeping Children Safe: an evaluation of the first FDAC in care proceedings’ report, please click here.

5 The Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire FDAC will initially run as a pilot for two years up to April 2016. The Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire pilot programme will be overseen by a multi-agency steering group with representation from the judiciary, local authorities, health and London FDAC.

6 Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division referenced FDAC in the 12th View from the President’s Chamber: The process of reform: next step