Substance misuse family courts to be expanded

By Joe Lepper

| 05 July 2013

At least two new specialist substance misuse family courts are to be set up thanks to £150,000 of government funding.

At least two more substance misuse family courts are to be established

The Department for Education says the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC), which specialises in handling care cases where parents have a substance abuse problem, is to be extended as a result of positive findings from the London pilot.

Set up in 2008 by Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and the children’s charity Coram, the DfE said both the NHS trust and Coram will be involved in developing the new FDAC sites, once a decision on where they are to be located has been reached.

Children’s minister Edward Timpson said: “The FDAC pilot has carried out excellent work supporting parents and children whose lives have been impacted by alcohol and substance abuse.

“That’s why we’ve made further funding available to create at least two additional courts to help provide early and effective support to some of our most vulnerable families.”

The FDAC differs from more conventional care proceedings in that parents involved see the same judge throughout, who meets them fortnightly to assess their progress. The court also has a stronger focus on support and treatment in areas such as substance abuse, psychiatric support, domestic violence, financial problems and housing.

The concept was developed in the US, and in the UK operates out of the Inner London Family Proceedings Court, which takes referrals from five London boroughs: Camden, Islington, Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Southwark.

Research published in 2011 into the London FDAC by the Nuffield Foundation and Brunel University found that mothers who had been through the court were less likely to have their children taken into care.

It found that 39 per cent of mothers were reunited with their children, compared with 21 per cent from a comparison group involved in conventional care proceedings.

FDAC service manager Sophie Kershaw said: "To be at the forefront of the roll-out is really exciting for us and a great endorsement of the model that we know works so well with vulnerable families."

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