The government has handed local authorities in England a £6.2m lifeline to continue providing a pioneering problem-solving court service - and to expand it into new areas.
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. The service was originally jointly paid for by the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Health, but has faced repeated funding uncertainties.
FDAC teams currently work in 12 courts covering 15 local authorities: London, Gloucestershire, Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Coventry, South West Peninsula (Devon, Plymouth and Torbay), Kent and Medway, Southampton, and Leeds.
Today Tracey Crouch MP, minister for sport and civil society, announced that the FDAC National Unit will receive £6.2m over seven years from the government's Life Chances Fund. This will help Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which provides FDAC services, to work with 11 local authorities to sustain or establish an FDAC service.
Problem-solving courts were championed by Michael Gove during his time as justice secretary. But a few months later, when Liz Truss was in charge, the Ministry of Justice's Transforming our justice system paper, stated that the department was ’exploring the opportunities for problem-solving methods further with the judiciary and collecting the evidence base'.
Funding for specialist teams primarily comes from local government children's service departments. However, the government's Life Chances Fund will support local authorities to enter into a 'social impact bond' to provide an FDAC. Social investors will provide capital and expertise to deliver outcomes-based contracts. The local authority repays the social investors if the service is successful in meeting agreed outcomes. The Life Chances Fund will contribute to the repayment when the expected outcomes are achieved.
The outcomes have yet to be agreed. But the Gazette understands that a major outcome could be a number of care days saved.
Crouch said: 'The UK is a world leader in using social impact bonds to make a positive impact in society and these projects will achieve real results in communities across the country.'
Research conducted by the Centre for Justice Innovation, a thinktank, shows that public sector bodies save £2.30 for every £1 spent on a pioneering family court.
Today, justice minister Dominic Raab said he was 'delighted' that the grant will help more families to access the family drug and alcohol courts 'to help turn their lives around'.