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Young Merton Together

Ten London boroughs join forces to commission Pan London Family Drug and Alcohol Court Service (FDAC)

The London Borough of Merton is leading on the commissioning and procurement of a Family Drug and Alcohol Court Service (FDAC), on behalf of the London boroughs of Bromley, Camden, Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark, Sutton, Wandsworth and Achieving For Children Community Interest Company (Royal Borough of Kingston and the London Borough of Richmond).

Working together with Croydon County Court, West London Family Court and the Inner London Family Court, the partnership will offer an alternative form of care proceedings for parents and children in those cases where substance misuse is a key factor in the decision to bring proceedings. This alternative is known as the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC).

Court proceedings take place as usual, but the judge meets outside of the hearings with the parents to encourage the parents to change. The judge, barristers and solicitors are trained in the model and in the use of motivational interviewing. The FDAC team works with the child’s parents by conducting a rapid assessment, and delivering evidence based interventions. The team comprises mental health specialists, child and family social workers, clinical nurse specialist, substance misuse workers, domestic violence specialist, child protection manager and parent mentors. The FDAC specialist team provides expert reports to the court, and liaises closely with the judge and with the local authority.

The FDAC model was originally set up by a judge at the Central Court in London and follows, with total fidelity, a model based in America. The results of the pilot service shows:

  • Five years post proceedings, significantly more FDAC than comparison mothers, had remained abstinent (58% compared to 24%).
  • Three years post proceedings, significantly fewer FDAC than comparison mothers had experienced disruption to reunification (51% compared to 22%)
  • A lower proportion of FDAC than comparison children returned to court in the five years post proceedings (34% compared to 55%) and a higher proportion of FDAC children experienced no disruption after 3 years (57% compared to 39%).
  • Fewer children permanently removed from their families.
  • Fewer families returning to court with less substance misuse.

Referrals will be made by children’s social care and will be agreed internally to ensure referrals meet the criteria for FDAC services. The Pan London FDAC service will go live in January 2018.

In its recent Inspection of Merton Council children’s services, (August 2017) Ofsted highlights the importance of being involved in the development of new approaches to family support:

“Senior managers are outward facing and regularly invite external peer reviews of their services. They are actively engaged with, or lead, regional groups and initiatives and are eager to learn about social work practice in other local authorities. This is exemplified in the leadership of the introduction of a Family Drug and Alcohol Court, and the active participation in an evolving social impact bond edge-of-care service, which will include multi-systemic and functional family therapies.

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The next edition will be published in November 2017