New approach to help Somerset parents overcome drug and alcohol problems

An alternative problem-solving approach to care proceedings where drug and alcohol play a significant factor has launched in Somerset.

The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) is a specialist independent family court team offering a new way to support parents to overcome substance misuse, mental health issues and domestic abuse. It offers a bespoke, problem-solving approach to target individual families’ complex difficulties. Research shows that, compared to standard care proceedings, more parents reduce and control their substance misuse within FDAC, and significantly, more children can return to or remain in their parents’ care.

Councillor Frances Nicholson, Lead Member for Children’s Services at Somerset County Council, said: “I’m delighted to see this approach being adopted in Somerset.

“FDAC focuses on motivating parents to take responsibility for making changes to their own lives, positively changing their behaviour and working towards managing their substance misuse to improve their children’s lives. This sits squarely within the Council’s vision of improving lives and within Children’s Services a family strengths-based approach to social work.

“Other FDACs have been successful, with more parents overcoming their substance misuse, and with better outcomes for parents, children and families than in normal proceedings. I look forward to the difference it will make in Somerset.”

FDAC aims to solve problems that have led a local authority to bring a parent to court. Parents must agree to join the process, after which they will have regular direct contact with a specialist Judge, who reviews the case. A team of specialists, made up of a psychologist, social workers, substance misuse and mental health workers, give intensive support to help each family and give advice to the Judge about how much the parents have changed and whether they can or cannot meet their children needs.

Somerset’s FDAC is an 18-month pilot scheme which has been made possible by over £515k funding from the Department for Education together with an investment by Somerset County Council of £309k. This new service is one of 14 specialist FDAC teams in operation across the UK, working in 20 courts and supporting families across 35 local authorities.

The first group of practitioners started work with Somerset County Council last month and the first FDAC court day will take place this week (8 January). Those delivering the FDAC service will work closely alongside the Family Safeguarding Team, which launched in October, together under the umbrella of Family Solutions Somerset.

Somerset Drug & Alcohol Service (SDAS), delivered by Turning Point, assisted Somerset’s FDAC with the recruitment of a psychologist and two substance misuse workers. FDAC will work closely with all other partner agencies to deliver the service.

More information about FDAC can be found here on the Somerset County Council website: www.somerset.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/drugs-and-alcohol or on this national website: https://fdac.org.uk

ENDS

For further information, please contact the Press Office on 01823 355020 or email pressoffice@somerset.gov.uk

Notes to Editors

The Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI) measures the outcomes of FDACs nationally. Somerset’s FDAC will therefore be included in the CJI’s ongoing evaluation process, providing individual sites with an evaluation of their own service by using an outcomes framework to collect and record information which is then independently evaluated. Data will be provided to the CJI by Somerset FDAC quarterly. A report by CJI will be provided on the anniversary of implementing the model. This will be used by Somerset’s FDAC to review the service with the aim of securing funding to continue its work longer term. The success of Somerset’s FDAC will be measured in a variety of ways, including:

  • the number of families where children have remained with or returned to their care;
  • fewer contested hearings;
  • collaboration with Special Guardianship Order (SGO) arrangements;
  • parents may be able to have better relationship with their children;
  • demonstrating change and breaking the cycle of recurrent removals by gaining insight into the causes;
  • helping people to get appropriate support and engagement with services;
  • stabilisation of complex situations; and
  • feedback from parents and others about their experiences of FDAC.

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