Better Courts: the financial impact of the London Family Drug and Alcohol Court


The London Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) works with families which are at risk of having children removed due to parental substance misuse. Our analysis suggests that it saves the taxpayer £730,000 per year – that’s £2.30 for every £1 invested.


FDACs deal with families at risk of having their children permanently removed because of drug and alcohol difficulties. These problem-solving courts are different because a dedicated judge and a team of social workers, psychiatrists and substance misuse experts, monitor parents to address their drug, alcohol and parenting problems.


This report examines the costs and benefits of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court. It concludes that, though it is more expensive than standard proceedings, due to the extra support provided to families, it is a good investment.


Savings to the taxpayer


Our report found that FDAC produces an average of £27,000 savings per case. This is more than double the £12,000 cost of the extra support. The main sources of savings are:


  • The extra support and supervision provided by FDAC helps more children return safely to their families, meaning that an average of £17,000 less per case is spent on adoption and fostering.
  • Parents going through FDAC are more likely to overcome their drug and alcohol problems. This saves £5,000 per case by reducing the amount that the NHS spends treating substance-misusing parents and that the criminal justice system spends prosecuting drug-related crime.
  •  Because they are less contentious and use more streamlined, FDAC court cases cost an average of £6,400 less than standard proceedings in terms of lawyers and expert witnesses


There are also additional smaller savings related to fewer families returning to court with subsequent issues, and some additional costs because more FDAC families take up drug treatment.


Our estimates suggest that 88% of the savings go to local authority children’s services, with the remainder split between the legal aid agency, the criminal justice system and the NHS. Many of the savings are realised relatively quickly, with FDAC more than paying back its initial investment within two years.