A pioneering problem-solving family court saves thousands of pounds per case and has cut the number of children taken into care enabling more families to remain together safely, according to an independent report published today.

Families who have been through the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) process, as opposed to ordinary care proceedings, were more likely to stop misusing substances and, if they did so, were more likely to be reunited with their children, the study reveals. 

The evaluation, carried out by Brunel University and consultants RyanTunnardBrown, found that 40% of FDAC mothers and 25% of FDAC fathers stopped misusing substances, compared with 25% of mothers and 5% of fathers who had been through ordinary care proceedings.

The FDAC had higher rates of family reunification: 35% of FDAC mothers stopped misusing and were reunited with their children, compared with 19% of mothers who had been through ordinary care proceedings. 
The rate of neglect or abuse one year after children returned home was lower in FDAC cases than for parents who had been through ordinary care proceedings: 25% compared with 56%.

However, in cases where reunification was not possible, the FDAC was no quicker in achieving alternative permanent placement than ordinary proceedings, taking 62 weeks.

The FDAC process costs £8,740 per family over the life of a case, offset by savings to local authorities from more children staying in their families, both during and proceedings and after the final order. The report shows savings made throughout the process, with shorter care placements saving £4,000 per child; and shorter hearings and less hearings with lawyers saving local authorities £682 per family.

In addition, the specialist team carries out work equivalent to that done by experts in ordinary care cases, saving £1,200 per case.
The report recommends that the FDAC process should be extended to other parts of England. 

Pioneered at Wells Street, in London by district judge Nicholas Crichton, the FDAC aims to improve outcomes for children by helping parents change the lifestyle that has put their children at risk of harm. A multi-disciplinary team is provided by Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with children’s charity Coram.

The head of the Family Division Sir James Munby, has also praised the court. Giving judgment earlier this month in re: S (A child) said ‘The simple reality is that FDAC works. [District judge Nicholas] Crichton has shown what can be achieved for children and their parents even in the most unpromising circumstances.

‘FDAC is, it must be, a vital component in the new Family Court.’ 

The court was originally funded by government departments and three local authorities – Camden, Islington and Westminster. It now runs as a consortium of five local authorities, with funding renewed only on a yearly-rolling basis.

The model has been adopted in Gloucestershire and will be set up in Buckingham and Milton Keynes this summer.