When will a Family Drug and Alcohol Court be set up in Wales?

At a recent family law seminar hosted by Pendragon Chambers and sponsored by Concateno TrichoTech, District Judge Crichton renewed his calls for a Welsh Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC).

Four years ago the Welsh Paediatric Society published an audit of parental substance misuse in children referred for adoption in Wales, and found that 67% of children had a health problem that could potentially be attributed to parental substance misuse. This figure matches the current accepted data that parental substance misuse is a significant social problem and a factor in up to two-thirds of care cases. It is estimated that in Wales up to 64,000 children are adversely affected by parental alcohol problems and 17,500 children are living in families adversely affected by parental drug misuse.

Across the UK, it is estimated that more than 2.6 million children in the UK live with hazardous drinkers, 705,000 live with a dependent drinker and more than 8 million people are affected by a family member’s alcohol use.

The UK’s first FDAC was piloted in 2008 at the Inner London Family Proceedings Court at Wells Street, based on a US model which showed promising results. Four years later, FDAC is showing comparable signs of success.

An independent evaluation by Brunel University found in its interim report that:

  • Nearly half of FDAC mothers were no longer misusing drugs or alcohol by the time of the final court order (as against 39% in regular family courts)
  • 36% of FDAC fathers has stopped misusing drugs or alcohol compared with none in the comparison group
  • Nearly twice as many FDAC mothers were reunited with their children as compared with those in a family court

More children staying with their families should mean that local authorities save money, (estimated at about £40,000 per case). However, funding for the London FDAC is secured only for one more year. Despite this, Judge Crichton continues to tour the UK and further afield to inspire others into trialling their very own Family Drug and Alcohol Court. With levels of parental substance misuse showing no signs of decreasing there is clearly a need for this proven approach. The recent response by the Government to the Family Justice Review places children at the heart of its thinking for the future of child protection and care – FDAC ticks most if not all of the boxes in meeting this vision: it’s a question now of whether enough fund-holders can see the value and join forces to support the creation of a Welsh FDAC.

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