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Is it the end for the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) National Unit?

The Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDACs) were pioneered by the retired District Judge Nicholas Crichton in London in January 2008 on a trial basis. Since then FDAC has been running in London and it has slowly spread across England. The main purpose of the Family Drug and Alcohol Courts is to bring an alternative approach to ordinary care proceedings by providing intensive treatment and support to parents who are dealing with drug or alcohol problems but wishing to turn their lives around for the better. FDAC works to create a relationship between the professional drug workers, social workers, judiciary and the parents. The transparency of this relationship assists the parents in accepting their issues and working towards a better future. Specialist multi-disciplinary FDAC team works closely with the FDAC judges and other professional by holding fortnightly court reviews with parents, in addition to the usual court hearings with lawyers present. The values behind FDAC are shared with other problem-solving courts and there is a strong emphasis on working positively with parents to assist them in turning their lives around.

Despite findings by several organisations such as Lancaster University showing that a significantly higher proportion of FDAC families had higher rates of family reunification (37% v 25%) in comparison with those who had been through ordinary care proceedings and a higher proportion of children were returned to their mothers who were no longer misusing, the great work which has been carried out by FDAC is likely to come to an end by September 2018. Also despite ministers and the judiciary acknowledging FDAC as being the heart of one of the key developments in family law in recent years, the lack of funds to support the work which is carried out by the unit means that it can no longer continue running. Recently the Department for Education specified that no additional funding would be made available for the Unit.

Sir Munby suggested that the possibility of the Unit closing is “profoundly disturbing” and that “the unit’s closure ‘will not prejudice the continuing viability of the established FDACs’. However, ‘this profoundly disturbing news must be of immense concern to everyone who is passionate about the need to improve our family justice system for the benefit of the families, children and parents we serve”.

This news has brought about concerns regarding the consequences of not having the services which are provided by FDAC and the tragedy it could cause for the families who are helped by the units. There are concerns that the number of vulnerable families who are reunited with their children will reduce and there is likely to be an increase in number of parents who continue misusing substances.

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