Public sector bodies save £2.30 for every £1 spent on a pioneering family court, an impact study by a thinktank shows.
The Centre for Justice Innovation says the London Family Drug and Alcohol Court cost £560,000 across its 2014-15 caseload, a sum that includes expenses such as specialist staff salaries and office costs. But it generated estimated gross savings to public sector bodies of £1.29m arising from that caseload over five years.
The Family Drug and Alcohol Court was pioneered in London by district judge Nicholas Crichton (pictured) in 2008. It aims to tackle parental substance misuse when it is a key element in local authority decisions to bring care proceedings.
In 2014, Crichton was named Law Society Gazette Legal Personality of the Year at the Law Society Excellence Awards, in recognition of his pioneering work.
Crichton said: ‘FDAC is tough but fair towards all the families it supervises. Parents are given a chance to work hard and overcome their drug and alcohol problems in order to show that they’re “good enough parents” for their children. This is the best possible justice for vulnerable families often living in the hardest circumstances.
‘At a time when public resources are under strain, projects like FDAC which deliver great value for money to the taxpayer are essential.’
The CJI’s estimate is based on 46 cases which began proceedings in the 2014-15 financial year.
The centre’s five-year cost model predicts that this caseload will generate £201,925 worth of savings in terms of reduced cost of local authority legal representation.
Local authorities and the Legal Aid Agency will save nearly £90,000 on the cost of expert witnesses and external assessments.
The criminal justice system will benefit from a £77,790 saving in terms of reduced cost from crimes relating to substance misuse.
The NHS will benefit from nearly £160,000 worth of savings from the reduced requirement for post-proceedings substance abuse treatment for parents.
However, by far the biggest saving will be £791,970 to local authorities in relation to the reduced cost of post-proceedings care as a result of more children being returned to their parents.
Last year £2.5m from the Department for Education enabled a newly created National FDAC Development Unit to develop specialist drug and alcohol courts across England, including in Coventry, Kent and Medway, Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter.
CJI director Phil Bowen said the ‘next important step’ was to apply a similar judge-led specialist approach in criminal courts.