More families in London will have access to a pioneering court, which research has shown improves the chances of parents tackling substance misuse and being reunited with their children compared with those who go through standard care proceedings.
The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC), which was pioneered in London by district judge Nicholas Crichton in 2008, aims to tackle parental substance misuse when it is a key element in local authority decisions to bring care proceedings. After expanding to serve four London boroughs, the service will now cover the boroughs of Bromley, Camden, Croydon, Kingston and Richmond, Lambeth, Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth. Proceedings may take place at the Croydon and West London family courts as well as the Central London Family Court.
The nine boroughs, led by Merton, commissioned the £825,000 expansion, which was awarded to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. The local authorities pay for each case they refer to the FDAC.
Today's announcement quotes a mother who has gone through FDAC proceedings. She said: 'I feel passionately about the role FDAC plays in family courts, and the unique support they offer to parents in a terrifying situation. The holistic and individualised approach FDAC takes is in stark contrast to standard child protection proceedings. Instead of viewing my situation in black and white, they found shades of grey and supported me to be strong and brave enough to face my addiction. I was challenged to gain insight and to become strong both as an individual and as a mother.'
Since 2008 the problem-solving court has gone from strength to strength. A FDAC National Unit was created in 2015. The Department for Education awarded £3.28m to part fund the establishment of four FDACs to test out the model in different areas and courts, and to support their set up through the national unit. The following year, an impact study by the Centre for Justice Innovation, a legal thinktank, showed that public sector bodies saved £2.30 for every £1 spent on the FDAC court. Last year the specialist court received a £6.2m government lifeline.
Research conducted by the University of Lancaster in 2016 shows that FDAC mothers were more successful in stopping drug or alcohol misuse by the end of proceedings. This, in turn, led to a higher rate of families being reunited. Evidence also showed that the risk of substance misuse was significantly lower five years after FDAC proceedings ended for those who were reunited with their children.
Paul Jenkins, chief executive of the trust, said: 'Our problem-solving Family Drug and Alcohol Court model is tried and tested. We know it works better than standard family proceedings in addressing the complex problems of trauma, substance misuse, mental ill health and domestic violence that families involved in care proceedings often face, and I'm delighted that families across London will now have the option of accessing a FDAC service.'