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Mixed report for Family and Drugs Court one year on

24 September 2009

One year after it was established the Family Drug and Alcohol Court, based in Wells Street, London, has helped resolve complex care cases more speedily and more satisfactorily for the families, according to an interim report published by Brunel University, but the pilot project has also encountered unexpected obstacles.

A US import, the FDAC relies on more intensive participation from judges, the families involved in care proceedings, and numerous social services organisations to “improve children’s outcomes by addressing the entrenched difficulties of their parents”.

According to the report the FDAC’s unusual characteristics have allowed cases to be resolved more efficiently and satisfactorily for the families.

Judicial continuity, where the judge who first heard the case will also hold subsequent reviews, appears to have played a significant role the success of the scheme for those who have taken part.

Judges have also been instrumental in motivating parents, while the multi-disciplinary review teams, liaising between parents, judges and other services, have allowed cases to progress more rapidly.

The scheme also helped tackle head-on issues relating to social neglect, with the direct involvement of services aimed at resolving substance abuse, preventing relapse, domestic violence, and housing problems.

But the report also expressed concern over the lower-than-expected number of families taking part in the pilot.

The court anticipated that 60 families would take part in the first year but the number was only 37, with only five new cases a month at the moment, making a representative assessment more difficult.

The report also suggests that the coming into effect of the new Public Law Outline at the same time as the project started, combined with a rise in court fees, may have affected the number of care cases coming to court.

Another concern was the lower than expected ‘mentor parents’, external individuals intended to act as role models for those involved in proceedings before the FDAC.

The pilot runs until December 2010.

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Risk & Compliance Children Divorce Wills, Trusts & Probate