Specialist family courts designed to assist parents dealing with drug and alcohol problems will soon open in various locations across England, after receiving funding from the Department for Education.
The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) was designed to help such parents retain care of their children. About two thirds of care proceedings involve at least one parent who misuses drugs or alcohol.
There is already a FDAC in London and one in Milton Keynes. The new ones will open in West Yorkshire, Kent and Medway, East Sussex, Torbay and Exeter, and Plymouth.
Separate from the traditional family court, the FDAC employs experts in addiction and substance abuse to coach parents in a “therapeutic” process. Those who attend must do so every two weeks and see the same judge on every visit.
President of the Family Division Sir James Munby called the FDAC “one of the most important and innovative developments in public family law in decades”.
Its “mix of compassion, firmness and clear-eyed assessment of the parent’s realistic chances of achieving rehabilitation” helped to achieve better results for parents and children alike, he claimed.
Last year, a study by Brunel University, London, found that 40 per cent of mothers and 25 per cent of fathers who attended the FDAC stopped misusing drugs as a result. Professor Judith Harwin, who led the research, praised its “unique combination of a specialist team attached to the court and judges who stick with a case throughout”.
Despite the high praise, the court is only able to see a relatively small number of cases each year. FDAC director Sophie Kershaw said that they did not want to expand too quickly, as “each region will have different needs” and will require evaluation before a new court can open.