Problem-solving family courts prove their worth in the UK: New findings

 

A report published today by the Centre for Justice Innovation provides fresh evidence that innovative Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDACs) save taxpayers money by keeping families together and overcoming parents’ drug and alcohol problems.

FDACs deal with families at risk of having their children permanently removed because of drug and alcohol difficulties. These problem-solving courts are different because a dedicated judge and a team of social workers, psychiatrists and substance misuse experts, monitor parents to address their drug, alcohol and parenting problems. Earlier this month the Prime Minister announced that the government is examining how to deliver more problem-solving courts in England and Wales.

New evidence from the Centre for Justice Innovation reveals that FDAC saves the taxpayer £2.30 for every £1 spent. Compared to standard care proceedings, the specialist family court, already found to be more effective with families, is now revealed to be better value for money. The extra support and supervision provided by FDAC helps more children return safely to their families, meaning that £17,000 less per case is spent on adoption and fostering. Parents going through FDAC are more likely to overcome their drug and alcohol problems. This saves £5,000 per case by reducing the amount that the NHS spends treating substance-misusing parents and that the criminal justice system spends prosecuting drug-related crime. In addition, families who appear in FDAC are less likely to return to court, making significant savings on court and legal costs.

The original Family Drug and Alcohol Court opened in London in 2008. Over the last two years 12 further courts have opened nationwide and more are in development. Recently FDAC judge, Nicholas Crichton was awarded an honorary doctorate to mark his contribution to child and family welfare and to the development of problem-solving models of justice.

Nicholas Crichton said,
‘FDAC is tough but fair towards all the families it supervises. Parents are given a chance to work hard and overcome their drug and alcohol problems in order to show that they’re ‘good enough parents’ for their children. This is the best possible justice for vulnerable families often living in the hardest circumstances.  At a time when public resources are under strain, projects like FDAC which deliver great value for money to the taxpayer are essential.’

Phil Bowen, Director of the Centre for Justice Innovation said,
‘It’s encouraging that problem-solving in the family courts not only delivers better justice, an important achievement in itself, but that it also offers a cost-effective way to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families. Applying a similar judge-led specialist approach in our criminal courts would take this development to the next important step. Problem-solving courts are innovative, effective and fit the system here in the UK. ‘

Sophie Kershaw, co-director of the FDAC National Unit said,

‘The Family Drug and Alcohol Court is simply a better, cost effective way to do care proceedings. Its non-confrontational style offers parents the best opportunity to change and gives more children their parents back. ‘


 

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