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More specialist courts to be set up for families facing substance misuse

A pioneering family court service which offers parents a better chance of recovering from drug or alcohol addiction is to be extended across the UK.

The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC), the first of its kind, works with people whose children have been taken into care because of parental substance abuse.

An independent evaluation of the court showed the court had been successful in improving outcomes for children by tackling the substance misuse of parents at an early stage of care proceedings. The evaluation was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and led by Professor Judith Harwin at Brunel University.

The Department for Education has now announced £150,000 of funding to extend FDAC to at least two locations across the country. The new locations have yet to be decided.

About FDAC

  • The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and children’s charity Coram set up the UK’s first FDAC in London in 2008.
  • Unlike conventional court proceedings, parents will see the same judge throughout and meet with them every fortnight. They also receive a range of support including drug and alcohol testing and treatment, psychiatric support and practical assistance with related issues such as housing, domestic violence and financial hardship.
  • The first phase of an independent evaluation published in 2011 showed that parents who had been through the FDAC system were more likely to stop their substance misuse than those in ordinary care proceedings, meaning fewer children were taken into care. When parents were unable to control their substance misuse, FDAC made swifter decisions to find permanent alternative homes for children. The integrated approach also has potential to reduce costs.
  • The Nuffield Foundation is now funding phase two of the evaluation, which is a 24-month follow up of the cases that have entered FDAC between 2008 and 2010 until the making of the final order and comparing them with non-FDAC cases.

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