Specialist courts make long-term savings

Family Drug and Alcohol Courts save £2.30 for each £1 spent, analysis shows

Family Drug and Alcohol Courts are making financial savings for public sectors, it has emerged.

judges hammer

The Centre for Justice Innovation analysis found that FDAC generated gross savings of £1.29m to public sector bodies over five years. The 2014/15 caseload for the London FDAC cost £560,000 meaning for each £1 spent, £2.30 is saved to the public purse, it added.

“These cashable savings accrue primarily from FDAC’s better outcomes: fewer children permanently removed from their families, fewer families returning to court and less substance misuse. The savings generated by FDAC exceed the cost of the service within two years of the start of the case,” said the Centre for Justice Innovation.

In 2014, an evaluation report by Brunel University concluded that compared to standard proceedings:

  • Children whose cases are heard in FDAC are less likely to be taken into care permanently;
  • Parents in FDAC are more likely to cease their drug use;
  • Children in FDAC are less likely to experience further neglect and abuse.

The UK’s first FDAC was launched in 2008 in London and today supports more than 40 families a year. The Department for Education has supported the rollout of the FDAC model, and now eight FDAC clusters are in operation serving 19 local authorities at 12 courts.

FDACs specialise in hearing cases where local authorities are applying to remove children from their families due to substance misuse. They are run by specially trained, dedicated judges who provide direct, ongoing supervision and support to parents in recovery.

The judges work closely with a team of social workers, psychiatrists, substance misuse workers and other professionals who offer a personalised package of support and treatment that gives parents the chance to overcome their addiction and show that they are capable of caring for their children.

The analysis stated that FDAC keeps more children with their families which saves public money that would otherwise be spent on taking children into care - an average of £17,220 per case.

Families who appear in FDAC are less likely to return to court which saves money on future court costs which are on average £2,110 per case. More parents in FDAC overcome their drug and alcohol addictions creating savings for the NHS due to reduced long-term need to provide drug treatment; and to the criminal justice system due to reduced drug-related crime of £5,300 per case on average.

The analysis warned however that more parents take up substance misuse treatment during the court proceedings which incurs a cost or £2,485 per case on average. As more children remain with their families there is an additional cost of supporting those families which is on average £460 per case.

“Taking all of these factors together, over five years the net financial saving relating to the FDAC in 2014/15 caseload is some £729,000, which equates to £15,850 per case on average,” the report concluded.

The report is available here.


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