Specialist substance misuse family court set for expansion

Originally published in Children and Young People Now

Joe Lepper

Coventry, Kent and Medway, Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter, and West Yorkshire will join a network of specialist family courts for parents with alcohol and drug problems that already includes Gloucestershire, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire and London.

A key element of the FDAC process, which launched in the UK in 2008, includes having the same judge throughout care proceedings to build trust with families. The process offers families swifter access to substance misuse services as well as housing, domestic violence and financial hardship support, to give parents the best chance of kicking addictions and keeping their children.

Children’s minister Edward Timpson said: “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 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.”

This latest expansion – the original scheme, based at the Inner London Family Proceedings Court, was first extended in 2013 – has been welcomed by Coram, which runs the London-based FDAC along with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust.

Renuka Jeyarajah-Dent, Coram’s director of operations, said: “Due to this significant investment from the government, greater numbers of families throughout the country will have the opportunity to access FDAC.

“FDAC is proven to be a very successful model of using multi-professional skills to their best advantage to problem-solve with the courts. 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.”

The funding will also see the creation of a National FDAC Development Unit to further develop FDACs in England.

Independent evaluation of the London court carried out by Brunel University last year, revealed successes in reducing the number of children taken into care and helping parents combat drug and alcohol addiction.

Four in 10 mothers appearing at a FDAC hearing stopped their substance abuse compared with 25 per cent of mothers in similar circumstances appearing in other family court proceedings, the research found. In addition, 35 per cent of mothers involved in a FDAC case were reunited with their children, compared with just 19 per cent of similar mothers involved in ordinary care proceedings.

So far 21 projects have been supported through the Department for Education’s £100minnovation fund.

To read more about the successful outcomes achieved by the FDAC see the latest issue of CYP Now or click here.