Problem-solving Family Drug and Alcohol Courts for Merton

Merton are one of nine London boroughs that can now access Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC), improving the lives of London children who face removal from their families because of the risk posed by a parent’s substance misuse and other complex needs.

The new pan-London service was launched yesterday (February 28) at a special event hosted by Croydon Family Court, with Judges, parent graduates, charities, and local authority representatives in attendance.

The partnership of nine London boroughs, led by the London Borough of Merton, commissioned the expansion of the London FDAC service, awarded to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

The boroughs supporting the Family Drug and Alcohol Courts are Merton, Bromley, Camden, Croydon, Kingston and Richmond (a shared partnership under the name Achieving for Children), Lambeth, Sutton and Wandsworth. Families in these boroughs will now have the option of ordinary care proceedings, or being referred to Central London Family Court, Croydon Family Court, and West London Family Court so their case can proceed through FDAC.

The FDAC service, delivered by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, gives parents more intensive support than they normally get when they are involved in care proceedings, with hearings (without lawyers) led by dedicated, specially-trained judges who provide frequent encouragement and challenge as parents work on their recovery.

Under FDAC, 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.


  • 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%).All nine London boroughs join fifteen other local authorities around the country in operating a FDAC, with further expansion planned across the UK later in 2018.

Councillor Katy Neep, Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said:  “Merton are proud to be leading the expansion of the Pan London FDAC service enabling a child-centered, family-focused response to cases where parental substance misuse and a range of wider factors mean that the courts may have to take the difficult decision to permanently remove a child. Through purposeful multi-disciplinary interventions we hope to be able to safely keep more children within their families but, where this is not possible, ensure that decision-making for the child’s future continues to be robust and timely.”

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, and I’m delighted that families across London will now have the option of accessing a FDAC service.”

Steve Bambrough, director of the FDAC National Unit, said:  “FDAC achieves better outcomes for parents, better outcomes for children, and better value for money and we applaud these local authorities, the courts, and the judges for taking an innovative, compassionate and evidence-based approach to family justice in the capital.”

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.”