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Family Drug and Alcohol Court National Unit: independent evaluation

Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme Evaluation Report 12

The Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC) aim to improve outcomes for children and families by providing an alternative way of working with parents involved in care proceedings who are experiencing substance misuse. FDAC encourages parents to believe recovery and change are possible, alongside a realistic understanding of the challenges they face.

Research published by Brunel University in 2014 indicated that the FDAC model was promising; showing that a higher proportion of parents whose case was heard in FDAC had ceased misusing substances by the end of proceedings, and more FDAC than comparison families were reunited with their children. Additionally, proportionately fewer children in FDAC families experienced new neglect or abuse in the first year following reunification (Harwin et al., 2014).

Following the publication of the initial research by Brunel University, careful consideration was given to how best to scale-up FDAC in order to improve outcomes for more children and families. This resulted in a successful funding application to the Department of Education’s (DfE) Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme (hereafter the Innovation Programme) to create the FDAC ‘National Unit’.

The National Unit was originally commissioned to support 4 new sites to set-up FDACs. However, over the course of the first month, the number of sites increased to 9 due to the inclusion of 5 West Yorkshire local authorities, and Southampton joining the community of practice.

Recent research, conducted by Brunel University London, Lancaster University and RyanTunnardBrown with methodological guidance from NatCen, has found evidence of the sustained benefits of FDAC. For example, the ‘After FDAC: outcomes 5 years later’ study, funded by the Innovation Programme, estimated that a higher proportion of FDAC than comparison reunification mothers abstained from drugs or alcohol over the 5 year follow-up2 (Harwin et al., 2016).