Different work strands within the National Unit ensure compliance with our objectives. The activity is about implementation, research and evaluation, and new developments.
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The National Unit Implementation Team includes colleagues from each National Unit Partner agency. The team is based at the Coram campus in Central London. The Team works with:
We are committed to supporting the continued delivery and development of the FDAC service. We provide ongoing bespoke expertise and support to existing sites via: consultancy and guidance, facilitating shared learning and networking events, sustainability planning, research and evaluation tools, specialist training and skills development.
We help scope the need for FDAC locally and the range of other services available, attend Steering and Operational Groups, advise and train the judges and specialist team in the evaluated FDAC model, and support the team to retain fidelity to the FDAC model. We advise on the challenges arising and how to find practical solutions, provide written practice materials, help embed arrangements for common robust data collection across sites, and provide networking and learning opportunities for site project managers and others.
We bring people together for national events, to learn from the established sites about how to tackle the common dilemmas of funding, commissioning, making the local court family friendly, and making FDAC work in different circumstances. We work more intensively with some sites, with a view to their being part of the next cohort of new sites. This involves us in attending local meetings with court and local authority champions, or with Steering Groups, or facilitating discussion sessions with groups of interested practitioners.
We liaise with others, to promote understanding of the FDAC model and to harness support for rolling it out more widely, and we draw on the experience of colleagues in other countries who are exploring and testing ways of promoting a justice-based approach to work with families.
Research and evaluation
This strand of activity has input from all Partner agencies, with one Partner taking a lead role for each aspect of the work and the rest contributing through discussion, fieldwork and data analysis. The activity is about strengthening and improving the FDAC model – through continuous, multi-site learning and rigorous evaluation – and helping to build the case for a more sustainable model for funding local FDACs. The research and evaluation work includes:
We are following up 240 families from the original independent comparison study, tracking their progress two to six years after the end of care proceedings to see whether the encouraging initial impact of FDAC is sustained over time. This ground-breaking research will analyse outcomes about maternal substance misuse, family reunification, recurrence of neglect or abuse, and return to court for the same or subsequent children. It will deepen our understanding of child protection problems and solutions and is likely to have wider application for services and agencies.
We are helping all FDAC sites to use the same robust mechanism for recording case data and to use the same standardised tools for measuring change in child and parent health, development and well-being. This will enable us to compare findings across sites and to compare current findings with the earlier ones from the independent evaluation of the London FDAC.
The independent evaluation of the London FDAC explored ways in which the FDAC court operated in line with the principles of problem-solving courts. We are repeating this exercise in all the FDAC courts, looking at the extent to which the judge and court adopt a non-adversarial and problem-solving approach.
We are doing qualitative research to understand variations in the way sites are implementing the FDAC model. This will help sites reflect on their process and will offer learning of value to other new sites.
The National Unit draws on the expertise of all Partner agencies to help us take opportunities for learning more about the benefits of the FDAC model. The new developments are about:
We are looking at the economic impact of a new FDAC on local social care, health and criminal justice services and using that information to gauge the likely economic impact of further roll out of the model on government stakeholders (including the DfE, DH and MoJ). This strand of work will help local authorities to audit the cost of care proceedings and we will use that information to develop a cost-benefit model for each local FDAC site. We will gain a better understanding of the costs and value for money of the FDAC approach, and learn more about the possible contributions of local partners to sustaining their FDAC service.
Click here to download our report Better Courts: the financial impact of the London Family Drug and Alcohol Court
We want to understand how to provide an FDAC service in rural areas of scattered communities and sparse services and courts, how the model might work in places where substance misuse problems are less severe, and how to use the problem-solving approach where care proceedings are triggered by parental mental health problems and domestic abuse rather than drug and/or alcohol misuse.
For example, the Early FDAC service is a pioneering two-year intervention that aims to prevent families from getting stuck in a pattern of repeat removal of successive children. This service is being piloted in London, Coventry, and Kent & Medway. The service is for pregnant women (and partners) who have had one or more children removed from their care. Support lasts from the pre-court stage through to 12 months beyond the end of care proceedings and is designed to respond to a range of parental problems, including but not limited to substance misuse.
Interviews conducted as part of the independent evaluation of FDAC found that parents and professionals were consistent in their praise for FDAC as a fair and just approach to care proceedings. We are keen to build on these findings to explore and test ways of quantifying justice and fairness in family proceedings.