DfE names councils to receive family support funds

By Neil Puffett

| 09 August 2019

A total of 39 councils that will share £15.5m as part of the expansion of successful family support initiatives have been named by the Department for Education.

Councils will spend a new wave of funding on improving family stability. Picture: Altanaka/Adobe Stock

As part of the DfE's Supporting Families; Investing in Practice programme, family drug and alcohol courts (FDACs) and family group conferencing services will be launched in more areas.

A total of 15 new FDACs will be established in Leeds, Walsall, Milton Keynes, Gloucestershire, London, Coventry, Stockport, Birmingham, Newcastle, Southampton, Bedfordshire, East Sussex, Somerset, Essex, and Kent.

The FDAC expansion will see teams of substance misuse specialists, domestic violence experts, psychiatrists and social workers carry out an early assessment and agree an intervention plan with parents who come before the court in care proceedings.

Once in proceedings, parents begin a "trial for change", supported by the specialist team and with regular meetings with the judge, who reviews the progress being made as well as adjudicating in the case.

As well as expanding to new sites, innovations at existing sites will be tested to see if further improvements can be made.



The new family group conferencing services aim to place families at the heart of making safe decisions and plans for children that are at immediate risk of being taken into care.

Services will be launched in North East Lincolnshire, Bath and North East Somerset, Middlesbrough alongside Redcar & Cleveland, Plymouth, Birmingham, Staffordshire, Southampton, Sheffield, Rotherham, Lambeth, Lewisham, Lancashire alongside Blackpool, Knowsley, Salford, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottingham, Merton, Bromley, Sunderland, and Shropshire.

Children and young people are involved in the conference along with their wider family network, and often supported by an advocate from outside the family, before a plan is agreed together. 

The number of children in care is currently at a record high and is forecast to increase further in the coming years.

 

Children and families minister Kemi Badenoch said: "Across the country there are children entering care because their parents struggle with problems of their own such as drug and alcohol addiction or domestic violence.

"This further investment marks an important step forward in making sure we are providing the right support for those who need it most.

"Our first duty must be to protect and support vulnerable children and by spreading these programmes around the country, we will provide expert support to tackle issues early and deliver for the most vulnerable."

FDACs were first launched in the UK in 2008 and expanded across five more areas in 2015 after a £2.5m investment through the government's Children's Social Care Innovation Fund.

In 2018, former chancellor Philip Hammond announced £84m over five years for the Children's Social Care Innovation Programme and the additional £15.5m to extend FDACs and family group conferencing was announced in May.

Research commissioned by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for children of alcoholics has previously found that between 2011 and 2014 parental alcohol misuse was implicated in 37 per cent of cases involving the death or serious injury of a child through neglect or abuse in England. An estimated 200,000 children in England are being raised by alcoholic parents.

The research also found that 61 per cent of care applications in England involved misuse of alcohol and/or drugs.

Phil Bowen, director of the Centre for Justice Innovation, said: "Today's announcement means more and more families across the country will benefit from family drug and alcohol courts. The evidence shows that parents who go through FDACs are much less likely to be addicted to drugs and much more likely to be able to keep their children safely.
 
"Expanding the number of FDACs across the country is an important step in reducing the harm caused to vulnerable children in our society."

The programme will be rolled out in partnership with the What Works Centre for Children's social Care, which will oversee the implementation.

Michael Sanders, executive director of the What Works Centre for Children's Social Care, said: "As well as helping us advance the evidence base, this will help ensure that many more children and their families can access promising services which we hope will lead to more children and young people being able to stay safely at home with their families." 

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