The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) has been praised as a success following the publication of a recent study.
The FDAC aims to help parents deal with their drug and alcohol problems and keep their families together whenever possible.
Parents see the same judge throughout the whole process, something that is not currently the case with ordinary care proceedings.
They also have access to a support team, who can help with matters ranging from financial difficulties to domestic violence.
An evaluation of the pilot scheme was carried out by a team at Brunel University, London led by Professor Judith Harwin.
Ninety families in the FDAC programme were compared with 101 families going through standard care proceedings in the evaluation.
Over the course of the pilot, 40 per cent of mothers and 25 per cent of fathers stopped misusing drugs as opposed to only 25 per cent of mothers and 5 per cent of fathers who go through the standard care proceedings.
Additionally, the FDAC had a higher family reunification rate than standard care proceedings and a significantly lower rate of abuse in the first year since the children were returned.
The researchers called for the FDAC to be rolled out more widely, with local authorities and the court system being encouraged to adopt it.
Judith Harwin called the FDAC effective in “helping to break the cycle of harm” that parental substance abuse causes:
“One of the main strengths of FDAC is its unique combination of a specialist team attached to the court and judges who stick with a case throughout, motivating parents and providing tight oversight.”
“The challenge now is to ensure that FDAC can fulfil its potential within the context of changes to the family justice system resulting from the Children and Families Act introduced last week.”
District Judge Crichton also weighed in on the results:
“This evaluation shows that swift access to integrated support services helps parents control their substance misuse and be reunited with their children. FDAC also has the support of parents themselves, which is crucial to its success. We now need to see a better system for tracking outcomes of these cases, which will give the court clearer information and improve feedback to local authorities.”
Substance abuse by parents is an issue currently affecting up to two thirds of all care proceedings.