Evaluation of pilot Family Drug and Alcohol Court

In January 2008 the first ever family drug and alcohol court (FDAC) in the UK opened in London at Wells Street Family Proceedings Court. It is funded by central government and Camden, Islington and Westminster local authorities.

Parental substance misuse is a factor in up to two-thirds of all families going through care proceedings. The new court, based on a successful US model, aims to address the treatment needs of parents so families can stay together.

Under the FDAC system, parents are getting immediate access to substance misuse services. Families are also benefiting from the court’s assistance in addressing other issues affecting their ability to parent, such as housing, domestic violence and financial hardship.

The Nuffield Foundation and the Home Office have funded Brunel University to carry out an independent first stage evaluation of FDAC. The evaluation team published its interim report in September 2009 and its Final Report in May 2011.

Findings from the FDAC Evaluation Final Report

  • Substance misuse: more FDAC parents controlled their misuse.
  • Reunited families: higher rate of FDAC family reunification.
  • Services: more FDAC parents engaged in treatment and other services.
  • Length of proceedings:  a more constructive use of court time.
  • Costs: savings for local authorities and potential savings for courts and the Legal Services Commission.
  • Parents and professionals want FDAC to expand

Recommendations

  • Bringing cases to court earlier might improve the chances of success.
  • The provision of a pre-birth assessment and intervention service provided by the specialist team is now being trialled in the three pilot local authorities.
  • FDAC could also play a valuable role for families living together at the end of the case through the provision of a short-term aftercare service.
  • Setting up FDAC in one or two further sites would provide lessons about how the model might be developed in different circumstances.  

The Foundation continutes to support this independent evaluation through a new grant to fund a 24-month follow up of the cases that have entered FDAC between 2008 and 2010 until the making of the final order and comparing them with non-FDAC cases.