The Family Drug and Alcohol Court National Unit is set for closure in September, it has emerged.
The award-winning Family Drug and Alcohol Court was launched in January 2008 and is run by Coram and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, a leading London-based provider of mental health care and education. FDAC is a new way of dealing with care proceedings when parental substance misuse causes harm to children.
The FDAC National Unit is an umbrella organisation that supports the work of local FDACs by training, quality assuring and promoting local FDACs, although it is facing closure in the autumn due to a lack of funding.
Steve Bambrough, director of the FDAC National Unit said: “It has always been difficult to fund the unit, despite the value it adds, due to lack of multi-agency and cross government funding options. Often the cost of FDACs are born solely by local authorities when the savings the courts engender are felt throughout the system (not only in children’s services, but in criminal justice, health, and beyond).”
Based on a model used in the USA, FDAC aims to help parents stabilise or stop using drugs and or alcohol and, where possible, keep families together. The process involves co-ordinating a range of services so that a family’s needs and strengths are taken into account, with everyone working towards the best possible outcome for the child: that is, a safe and stable family.
There are currently 10 FDACs working in 15 courts and serving families in 23 local authorities. While FDAC sites are not closing, it is hoped that the closure of the FDAC National Unit will not jeopardise the continuing viability of existing FDACs and the work they do with vulnerable families.
Steve Bambrough added: “When we announced receipt of ‘in principle’ funding via social impact bond 8 months ago it was with great hope that this would lead to expansion of the successful Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) model. Instead, we’re now facing potential closure of the national unit at the end of September and the considerable impact this will have on vulnerable families.
“Families who have been through FDAC are significantly more likely than families in standard care proceedings to be reunited with their children, and for the parents to have ceased misusing substances. We know this because our national unit evaluates, assesses, and works with local authorities to ensure their FDAC is working the way it should to help vulnerable families address complex problems of trauma, substance misuse, mental ill health and domestic violence. If we remove national support from the FDAC model, we could lose consistency, and possibly in the long term, quality of care for these families.
“That is not to denigrate the amazing work of our local FDAC teams in any way, but a simple reality that complex problems requires support and oversight, especially for those local authorities setting up new FDACs in the future. Without the right support we risk losing a very special service that works and has provided hope for many people in the worst of times, and we hope to be able to work with local authorities and other partners to find a solution to keeping this support going at least in some form.
“We had hoped the SIBs model would help address this [funding issue], but unfortunately due to a combination of factors this has not worked out,” he concluded.