Problem-solving Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDACs) to support more families with £6m Life Chances grant

18 October 2017

The FDAC National Unit and partner local authorities have been awarded a £6 million grant from the Government’s Life Chances Fund, Tracey Crouch; the Minister for the Office of Civil Society announced today, Wednesday October 18. 


The service, delivered by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, will be able to be rolled out to many more areas, giving more families access to FDAC’s unique approach to improve the lives of children who face removal from their families because of the risk posed by a parent’s substance misuse and other complex needs.

The new government grant will enable the FDAC National Unit - the expert hub that supports the roll out of the FDAC model across the UK - to work with eleven local authorities that hope to sustain or to start their own FDAC services. The money will be used to develop a seven-year FDAC outcomes contract in each of these places, funded by Social Impact Bonds.

Up front funding to pay for the delivery of the FDAC services, prior to the outcomes being achieved, will be provided by the Bridges Social Impact Bond Fund, a £25m pool of capital dedicated to financing innovative outcomes contracts, managed by specialist, sustainable, impact investor Bridges Fund Management. The Life Chances Fund will contribute to the repayment by LAs to investors when expected outcomes are achieved.

FDAC is a problem-solving court which helps families to address the complex issues that brought them into care proceedings. FDAC gives parents more intensive support than they normally get when they are involved in care proceedings, with hearings led by dedicated, specially-trained judges who provide frequent encouragement and challenge as parents work on their recovery.

The judge works closely with a specialist, multi-disciplinary team attached to the court, who collaborate with local services to offer parents a personalised package of support and treatment that gives them the chance to overcome their problems and show that they are capable of caring for their children.

Latest research (2016) demonstrates families receiving 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. FDAC families are also 3 to 4 times more likely than families receiving standard care proceedings to be doing well 3 years after the proceedings came to an end:

  • A significantly higher proportion of FDAC than comparison reunification mothers (58% v 24%) were estimated to sustain cessation over the five-year follow up.  And;
  • A significantly higher proportion of FDAC than comparison mothers who had been reunited with their children at the end of proceedings were estimated to experience no disruption to family stability at 3-year follow up (51% v 22%).

A recent financial analysis of the London FDAC found that the savings generated exceed the cost of the service within two years of a case coming to court. For each £1 spent, £2.30 is saved to the taxpayer.

Today’s announcement will support hard pressed local authorities to set up and deliver FDACs for a minimum of 5 years. This level of sustainability will ensure FDACs have sufficient time to flourish and for robust evidence to be collected about the outcomes FDAC achieves and its value for money.

A mother who has been through FDAC said:

“I feel passionately about the role FDAC plays in family courts, and the unique support they offer to parents in a terrifying situation. The holistic and individualised approach FDAC takes is in stark contrast to standard child protection proceedings. Instead of viewing my situation in black and white, they found the shades of grey and supported me to be strong and brave enough to face my addiction. I was challenged to gain insight and to become strong both as an individual and as a mother.”

Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Tracey Crouch, said:

“This funding will benefit some of the most vulnerable people in society and provide vital support to help them transform their lives. The UK is a world leader in using social impact bonds to make a positive impact in society and these projects will achieve real results in communities across the country.”  

Minister of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, said:

“I am delighted that thanks to this innovative Life Chances Fund grant, more families will be able to access Family Drug and Alcohol Courts to help turn their lives around.”

Minister for Children and Families Robert Goodwill said:

“Family Drug and Alcohol Courts play an important role in supporting some of the country’s most vulnerable children and families. This funding will help these families get the support they need to start getting their lives back on track.”  

Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Our problem-solving Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) model is tried and tested. We know it works better than standard family proceedings in addressing the complex problems of trauma, substance misuse, mental ill health and domestic violence that families involved in care proceedings often face.

“This grant from the Life Chances Fund will enable us to create FDACs in many more areas, using a payment for outcomes model that makes it easier for local authorities to adopt the model. The FDAC National Unit working with the Big Lottery Fund, the Centre for Social Impact Bonds, and a number of innovative local authorities across England, will ensure there are more FDACs to give more families the hope, and the tools, to solve their problems and break down the intergenerational cycle of deprivation.”

Mike Shaw, director of the FDAC National Unit, said:

“FDAC achieves better outcomes for parents, better outcomes for children, and better value for money. But funding is a constant battle.

“With the support of the Life Chances Fund, and a focus on rewarding the positive outcomes delivered by the service, we finally have an innovative funding model to match our innovative court model. We can now concentrate on bringing FDAC to more families in more local authorities.”

Andrew Levitt, Head of the Bridges Social Impact Bond Fund, said:

“An outcomes contract structure gives local commissioners the flexibility, long-term support and up-front funding they need to develop an FDAC service that’s perfectly tailored to local challenges. It’s great that central Government is supporting local authorities by part-paying for contracts like these via the £80m Life Chances Fund. We believe that as more local commissioners take advantage of these grants; this funding will lead to dramatically better outcomes for some of the UK’s most vulnerable people.”

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