These pages are a running log of the occasional news updates posted on the website home page.

Click the “+” symbol next to each date to read about that week’s activity, report or opinion.

+ 09 January 2018: New Year 2018, New Family Law Blog and New Courts!


This New Year we celebrate FDAC’s 10th birthday! FDAC began in London in 2008, as a pilot service, and now there are 10 specialist FDAC teams in the UK, working with trained FDAC judges in 15 courts and serving families in 22 local authorities.

Thank you to everyone involved, for the hard work, commitment and compassion that has made FDAC what it is today. We will continue to nurture the growth of local FDACs so that we can extend FDAC’s problem-solving approach to help more children and families. Our aim is to meet the ambition of Sir James Munby:

‘The FDAC approach is crucially important. The simple reality is that FDAC works. …FDAC is, it must be, a vital component in the new Family Court. …I want to see FDAC rolled out across the country in every DFJ area. …Bear in mind that, properly used, FDAC is not merely the right thing for children and their families; as both experience and research shows, it actually saves money!’ (12th View from the President’s Chamber)

See details of existing FDAC sites here


We are delighted to announce the opening of two new FDACs.

The new Pan-London FDAC opens this week. This expanded London service works across three London Family Courts: Central, Croydon and West London.  It will cover 9 London local authorities: Bromley, Camden, Croydon, Lambeth, Merton, Richmond, Kingston, Sutton and Wandsworth.

The new Northern Ireland FDAC pilot has an FDAC team based in Armagh and operating out of the Newry court. The pilot will be run in partnership, by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust and the Newry Family Proceedings Court.


This year Family Law will continue to publish our blogs about FDAC.  The latest one is written by the East Sussex FDAC team. Read it here.

It covers the purpose of drug and alcohol testing in FDAC work, the testing methods used and their timing, how testing can help bring about positive change for parents and families, the complexities involved, and why and how testing should be viewed as one important feature of FDAC’s iterative assessment and intensive intervention process.

As the team says:

‘Testing is a necessary part of gathering information: it helps provides a fuller understanding of the issues underlying the dependence on alcohol and/or other drugs, as well as of the impact this has on parents’ care of their children.’

To read all the current blogs in our FDAC Family Law series visit our website here.

+ 21 November 2017: Tribute to Judge Julie Exton by Jane Marriott, Team Manager of FDAC Gloucestershire


Very late on Sunday 8th October Julie Exton lost her life to Motor Neurone disease. Julie was the longest serving FDAC judge after Nick Crichton; she had been an FDAC judge for 5 years when she died. She was a really strong and committed FDAC judge.  She worked tirelessly to ensure that FDAC was set up in Gloucestershire and that it was sustained.  In the face of some local resistance Julie stood up for FDAC with wit and humanity.  She used to say that sitting in the FDAC court on a Friday was her favourite day of the week.  She engaged very well with parents and they have been shocked and saddened by her illness and death and will miss her greatly.  Julie was keen to test out different kinds of practice within FDAC, so for example, in those cases which ended with a supervision order and children returning home, families would come back to court for non- lawyer reviews throughout the period of the supervision order, on an informal basis.

One mother had been very impressed at a non-lawyer review when Julie told her that when she had been at University she had been to see the Clash.  I bumped into this mother in the local town one day and she proudly showed me the piercing she had had done in honour of the judge.  Another young mother said recently ‘ Oh I loved Judge Exton – she really whipped me into shape’.

Julie was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in June of this year.  She had died very quickly and there is great sadness within our FDAC family that we didn’t have more time with her.

From my own perspective, I have been blessed in my working life to work with four women who have been profoundly influential and important to me and Julie was one of these four women.


It was with great sadness that the FDAC National Unit, and the whole FDAC community, heard about the death of Julie Exton. District Judge Exton was a powerful advocate for FDAC in Gloucestershire and nationally, and we have very fond memories of her and the support she gave to us.


We’ve recently held our 2nd annual National Networking FDAC Conference, it was a great success!

The conference brings together FDAC Teams and FDAC Judges from all the national FDAC sites. This year the conference focused on therapeutic practice and group work in FDACs around the country. The day provided an opportunity for existing FDACs to think about developments for the

future, ways they can support each other as a community and ways to deepen FDAC’s therapeutic practice.

The conference saw problem solving community discussions, a presentation on important new research findings, ‘Vulnerable Birth Mothers and Recurrent Care Proceedings’, and a great range of interactive groups showcasing lots of interesting practice from across FDAC sites.

It is always brilliant to see the FDAC community come together; their skills, compassion, enthusiasm and commitment for the work they all do is so evident and that is what makes the difference for families in FDAC. The FDAC NU would like to personally

thank the FDAC community for their continued hard work, dedication and innovation. They are all vital in nurturing the growth of FDAC!

‘As ever I left invigorated and inspired! A great opportunity to be reminded we are part of a bigger family.’

 ‘Thought provoking, profound, needed.’ on Vulnerable Mothers presentation by Claire Mason

‘The workshops were a great idea; it was really useful to hear from various FDAC teams on the interventions they are using.’  

FDAC means finding better solutions to the problems that arise in people’s lives. Aligning ourselves on the side of hope and regeneration.’ FDAC NU Director

+ 18 October 2017: FDAC on BBC 2 Victoria Derbyshire show



Tracey Crouch, Minister for the Office of Civil Society, announced today that the FDAC National Unit and partner local authorities have been awarded a £6.2 million grant from the Government’s Life Chances Fund.

“This funding will benefit some of the most vulnerable people in society and provide vital support to help them transform their lives. The UK is a world leader in using social impact bonds to make a positive impact in society and these projects will achieve real results in communities across the country.”  Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Tracey Crouch

“I am delighted that thanks to this innovative Life Chances Fund grant, more families will be able to access Family Drug and Alcohol Courts to help turn their lives around.” Minister of State for Justice, Dominic Raab

“Family Drug and Alcohol Courts play an important role in supporting some of the country’s most vulnerable children and families. This funding will help these families get the support they need to start getting their lives back on track.” Minister for Children and Families, Robert Goodwill

FDAC achieves better outcomes for parents, better outcomes for children, and better value for money. But funding is a constant battle.

With the support of the Life Chances Fund, and a focus on rewarding the positive outcomes delivered by the service, we are now exploring an innovative funding model to match our innovative court model. We continue to concentrate on bringing FDAC to more families in more local authorities.

Today’s announcement will support hard pressed local authorities to set up and deliver FDACs for a minimum of 5 years. This level of sustainability will ensure FDACs have sufficient time to flourish and for robust evidence to be collected about the outcomes FDAC achieves and its value for money.

Watch the debate with Victoria Derbyshire here at 1hr 9mins :

Watch Catrin Nye’s report on FDAC here:

Tweet your thoughts and show your support for FDAC at @FDAC_NU  #FDAC

Read full press release here.

+ 22 June 2017: Parents, Practitioners & Judges’ Speak About FDAC


The FDAC National Unit continues to get feedback from parents and professionals to feed into developments and our FDAC Service Standards Audit work with sites.

We thought you would be interested to read some of these opinions about FDAC.


Read an FDAC parent’s story in a moving guest blog by ‘Sam’ published in Social Work in East Sussex here.

Sam’s story talks about the different ways in which FDAC helped her overcome her complex issues and addiction to love herself again and to become the parent her children needed her to be.  

‘I am now enjoying being me for the first time in a long time and most of all I am more than enjoying being a mum to my children, the mum that they need, and want, not the robot that replaced her for a while.

The shame I once felt is replaced with pride, it’s not always a bad ending to a dark beginning…’ Sam guest blog, Social Work in East Sussex.

You can read more stories from parents on our website in Reflections from FDAC parents


Read our sixth Family Law blog about FDAC here: ‘What counts as success in FDAC cases’

This powerful blog by Ed Dyer, South West Peninsula FDAC Manager, and Dr Anna Gough, FDAC Clinical Lead, uses their experience to explain their perspective on the different successes they have seen as a result of FDACs work and alternative approach with families in vulnerable situations.

To read all the current blogs in our FDAC Family Law series visit our website here


Read FDAC Judge Penny Taylor’s great article about the South West Peninsula FDAC service here. Judge Taylor gives her perspective on how FDACs alternative, collaborative way of working has helped families.

‘An enabling, empowering and compassionate model for trying to resolve family conflict and difficulties.’

‘A gold service where all a variety of local services are utilised and combined to solve the problem of the parents’ addiction and the impact of this on their parenting.’ Judge Taylor The South West Peninsular Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) The South West Peninsular Family Drug and Alcohol Court

FDAC Judge Woodhead spoke about FDAC at the Public Child Law conference at Liverpool Law Society last month. Her presentation included some really innovative ideas on how FDAC Judges can help demystify the court process and help motivate vulnerable parents to keep tackling the hard challenges they face. She gave examples of allegories to engage parents.

‘If you build your house of straw it will soon fall down, with sticks it will last a bit longer but the FDAC team can help you build a house of bricks.’

‘in an informal setting every Judge has to find the right way to try to get through to parents.’ Judge Woodhead

The FDAC National Unit is really looking forward to FDAC Judges sharing their experiences and practices at the FDAC Judges forum later this year!

+ 05 May 2017: New Blog, New Article


Read our fifth Family Law blog about FDAC here: ‘Non-lawyer review hearings – at the heart of a successful FDAC’ 

Read about the vital role of these short and regular court meetings between parents, the judge and key professionals throughout FDAC care proceedings. With background information about their place in problem-solving justice, research evidence about their value and reflections from the practice of FDAC judges HHJ Patrick Perusko and DJ Carole Burgher.

To read all the current blogs in our FDAC Family Law series visit our website here


Read a recently published article by our two Development Co-Ordinators,   Jo-Ann Maycock and Gabriella Brent.  Their article about FDAC took a prominent position as the cover story in April’s publication of the Cilex Journal.

Read about the history of FDAC, how FDAC works, FDACs evidence base and the National Unit in this informative article on the story of FDAC so far. There’s an interview with pioneering FDAC Judge Nick Crichton and reflections from Parents who have had first-hand experience of FDACs alternative problem-solving approach.

Read the article and pass it on


Ever wondered what we do in the FDAC NU?  Now some of your curiosities can be answered!

Read ‘A day in the life of Mary Ryan’ here;  read about the work she does in the NU and find out about her motivation for the important work we do!

+ 27 March 2017: Blogs, Pilots, Prizes



As we embark on our third year of operation, a blog from Research in Practice reviews the work of the NU and the challenges ahead for local FDACs.

Read about the evaluation by NatCen Social Research of how the NU’s early work was perceived by local and national stakeholders. The main findings are about the positive help to new FDACs to get going, stay in business, and use data in a systematic way.

And, as we strive to extend the problem-solving approach to justice to ever more children and families, the blog highlights the tireless energy of local FDAC champions, the value of their having strong support from children’s services directors, and their search for new funding partners in times of continuing austerity.


Is your local youth court keen to test out new ways of working?

The Centre for Justice Innovation, one of the FDAC NU’s partners, has just announced an exciting two-year pilot to trial problem-solving youth courts across England and Wales.

 We are delighted with this plan to extend the FDAC problem-solving approach to courts dealing with young people in trouble. Selected youth courts will be helped to build on the lessons from FDAC and similar courts, testing the benefits of maintaining a relationship with young people who are being prosecuted and motivating them to engage with services to tackle the problems that cause them to offend.

For more information, and how to express interest in joining the pilot (by 21 April), check out Problem-solving courts for young offenders.


And finally, congratulations to members of the FDAC NU and its partner agency Lancaster University for winning a prestigious award – the 2016 BASW Kay McDougal British Journal of Social Work Prize.

The prize is for the journal’s best article, judged in terms of “breadth of scholarship, sophistication of theory, rigour of research, relevance of practice and international appeal”. This is a wonderful accolade for all involved: Karen Broadhurst, Bachar Alrouh, Emily Yeend, Judith Harwin, Mike Shaw, Mark Pilling, Claire Mason, and Sophie Kershaw.

Read the article and pass it on. Connecting Events in Time to Identify a Hidden Population: Birth Mothers and Their Children in Recurrent Care Proceedings in England.

+ 22 February 2017: New blog - FDAC – a trauma informed service & Secretary of State for Justice, Elizabeth Truss, supports FDAC!


Read our third Family Law blog about FDAC here: ‘FDAC – a trauma informed service’

Co-written by Dr Sheena Webb, London FDAC team manager and Tom Borro, Social Worker in the Coventry FDAC team, the blog focuses on FDACs alternative approach and describes how FDAC is a trauma informed service. Most parents, if not all, who come into FDAC are affected by trauma.

The blog explains the importance of FDACs transparent and compassionate approach to trauma. Read how Coventry FDAC has set up a Seeking Safety group to address common impacts of trauma and educate parents about their trauma and related substance misuse. FDAC believes in empowering parents to make good choices by helping them understand their past!


We were delighted to hear the support for FDAC in Elizabeth Truss’s recent speech!

The speech, on 13th February, at the Centre for Social Justice, on criminal justice reform included a section supporting FDAC after a recent surprise visit to the FDAC court in Maidstone.

Elizabeth Truss champions FDACs problem solving approach and focuses particularly on the role FDACs play in tackling the problems that so often contribute to parents committing offences. FDACs trauma informed service helps parents address issues in order to set their lives on different trajectories; the ability to make safer choices plays an important part in reducing criminal behaviour in the future.

We’ve included the quote from the speech below and you can read the full speech here:

“Family drugs and alcohol courts, like the one I visited in Maidstone, will play a vital role in this. I believe that judges are as important in reforming people as any prison or probation officer.

Working with local authorities, judges closely oversee compliance with treatment programmes. I’ve watched it in action – I know that it works. Over 26 weeks, those taking part have to comply with drug testing and therapy sessions to stay clean.

This sort of consistent supervision and support, overseen by one judge over a long time period, is helping women beat the addictions that can fuel crime, and making it more likely that they will be able to regain custody of their children.

Let me provide one example among many. One woman, I’ll give her the name Jenny, has transformed from a drug dependent 25-year-old with a five-year-old daughter to a woman determined to do right by her child.

Without this intervention Jenny would have continued to steal to feed her habit. Jenny now has a chance at a better life. Her daughter does too.

There are people who would dismiss this as soft justice. I would call it decency and common sense because without this court ordered intervention, Jenny’s path was almost certainly leading to prison.”

+ 13 February 2017: FDAC features on BBC woman’s hour


Fantastic interview by an FDAC mum, ‘Rosie’, graduate of the service, and Sophie Kershaw, co-director FDAC NU, on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour today. If you missed it the story is available via BBC iPlayer – – with the FDAC story beginning from 23 minutes and 55 seconds into the programme.

‘Rosie’ talks about how different FDAC is from ordinary proceedings and how she feels this was crucial in helping her recover from substance misuse and regain care of her third child. She had lost her previous two children through care proceedings. She describes what was special about the FDAC process.

Sophie Kershaw talks about the expansion of FDAC, the short and long term benefits to parents, and the cost savings to local authorities.

Watch out for our next Family Law blog later this month which focuses on FDACs alternative approach and describes how FDAC is a trauma informed service – FDAC – a trauma informed service

+ 26 January 2017: New blog – FDAC’s 'Trial for Change'


Read our second Family Law blog about FDAC here: ‘The FDAC trial for change – combining expert assessment and intervention during proceedings’.

The blog focuses on a key element of FDACs alternative problem solving approach in care proceedings. Read how FDAC combines assessment and intervention to give families a fair chance, giving parents an opportunity to turn their lives around and to try to solve issues which led to care proceedings.


Also published this week, Nat Cen’s external evaluation report on the FDAC National Unit. The report findings highlight the critical role played by the FDAC NU in setting up existing FDACs around the country.

The report recommends that the FDAC NU receive more sustainable funding to continue the hard work – providing committed, expert support for FDACs success and development, and to support future roll out of more regional FDAC teams/services.

We are delighted that Nat Cen’s evaluation supports the work we do and recognises the challenges of implementation. Our aim is to continue to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families and our work helps to ensure effective, efficient delivery of FDAC services across different parts of the country in order to achieve this!

Read the full report here:

+ 12 January 2017: This year we are publishing a monthly blog about FDAC in Family Law

The FDAC National Unit wishes you all a Happy New Year!

This year we are publishing a monthly blog about FDAC in Family Law. We are delighted to have the opportunity to talk in more detail about the FDAC approach and process in this series of blogs that will cover a range of topics. Each blog will be authored by someone in a local FDAC team or by a member of the National Unit.  The aim is to provide a wider audience with more detailed information about FDAC: how the model works in practice, how the national rollout is going, new developments and findings from research.

Our first blog has already been published and you can read it here: ‘Family Drug and Alcohol Court: an introduction’

It’s great to have this opportunity to spread the word about FDAC. We hope you enjoy following the blog, and sharing it with others too! We’ll let you know when each blog is published. The next one will be available for you to read before the end January.

+ 22 September 2016: FDAC research shows lasting change for families


Today the FDAC National Unit launched two pieces of important research: ‘The Highlights’ from a 5 year Follow Up study of outcomes of cases included in the original Family Drug and Alcohol Court; and the findings from a ‘Court Observation Study’ of the FDAC problem-solving court approach in the longer-standing and newer FDAC sites.

The findings are very positive and demonstrate the meaningful impact that FDAC makes not only during proceedings but how parents use what they learnt from FDAC to maintain their abstinence and continue to look after their children more successfully in the following five years.

Click here to find a summary of the 5 year Follow Up study and the highlight report. Click here for more information on the Court Observation Study and the full report.

The research findings were featured this morning (22.09.16) on the Radio 4 TODAY programme which you can listen to here (from 2:36:30 to 2:44:40). You can also watch Judge Nicholas Crichton CBE, founder of FDAC and a former FDAC parent speak on the Victoria Derbyshire show.

The Law Society Gazette has also published a piece about the research findings and the implications for the wider role out of problem solving practice. You can read the article here.

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, who spoke at the research launch today, has been a committed advocate of FDAC throughout his presidency. He gave a very strong message about the importance of FDAC continuing to be funded and scaled up around the country:

“The message is clear. FDAC should continue to be rolled out more widely and be sustained.

My stance is simple: The crisis in our family justice system requires us to be innovative. I have long been a committed and enthusiastic supporter of FDAC. The new research only goes to show how vital this service is. FDAC works. I hope this research will convince any doubters that this problem solving approach should continue to be supported, funded and, indeed, scaled up.”

You can read his full speech here.

+ 2 September 2016: Feedback from FDAC Parents

Amazing work continues across the 13 FDAC sites around the country and this month we’ve had some powerful feedback from parents about the positive ways FDAC has supported them to keep their family together.

At the end of the July, the London team held their annual FDAC graduate barbecue and parents, FDAC staff and judges who have been involved with or have had contact with FDAC for the 8 years of its existence came together to reconnect and share their progress. One parent who left FDAC 6 years ago proudly returned, with her son,  to tell the Judge and the team how she was one month away from graduating as a social worker.

And this month a Judge in Kirklees received a poignant letter from FDAC parents who have successfully graduated from FDAC and who have given us permission to share their letter so  you can read first-hand about how the rigorous FDAC process can support families to stay together if parents are able to make use of the opportunities it provides.


FDACs around the country regularly collect feedback from FDAC parents and professionals to find out what they feel works and what can be improved so the FDAC process can be continually reviewed and improved.

Read more about FDACs theory of change: better justice, better outcomes and better value for money here. Read more experiences from FDAC parents here.

+ 5 July 2016: FDAC win a prestigious award and Pioneering VIG exchange workshop

Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire FDAC win a prestigious award!

Congratulations to the Milton Keynes County and Family Court on winning an HMCTS regional award. It honours their strong partnership work in developing FDAC  and puts them in line for some National Awards.

The planning and design of the new service was a joint venture led by HMCTS, the judiciary and key stakeholders for Buckinghamshire County Council and Milton Keynes Council. Particular praise is given by the Court to the collaborative work undertaken by the local authority Service Directors, Heads of Service and Legal Services, and Drug and Alcohol Commissioners, as well as to the support from the London and Milton Keynes FDAC Service Managers, Cafcass, and local child care solicitors.

Their courts run every fortnight, one at Aylesbury and one at Milton Keynes. The court team have also been involved in giving up their time to help with many problem-solving events, inspiring others to establish their own FDAC.

The success of the programme has resulted in the two local authorities making a decision to commission a permanent FDAC service. And plans are in place to extend the problem-solving approach to other cases coming before the courts.

Pioneering Video Interactive Guidance (VIG) exchange workshop

As part of the Infant Mental Health Week last month, the London FDAC collaborated with AVIGuk to run an exchange workshop for VIG trainees, practitioners and supervisors. The focus was on VIG interventions with parents and babies in the ‘1001 critical days -from conception to 2’ which is a new aspect of VIG work.

London and Coventry FDAC teams described how they use VIG in FDAC and Early FDAC work to develop parents’ reflective parenting skills and mentalising capacity. The workshop was attended by people at different stages of VIG training, including family support workers, clinical nurse specialists, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. The feedback was very positive – a child and adolescent psychiatrist commented:

“Infant work is an emerging field in VIG so people found it really valuable sharing their experiences and learning from each other.”

These are all great achievements by everyone involved!

+ 10 June 2016: Training, Mental Health Awareness Week and UK Volunteer's Week


It’s been a busy month for the National Unit. We’ve been travelling the country visiting new FDAC sites and running our quarterly follow-up training days. They are an opportunity for FDACs to reflect on what’s going well and tackle any sticking points.

We are so impressed with the innovative work, problem-solving approach, and passion and commitment of all the specialist FDAC teams!


Yesterday, Thursday 9 June, the London FDAC Manager, Dr Sheena Webb, joined an expert panel for The Guardian’s live Q&A online discussion How can public services work together on infant mental health?

The NSPCC have launched Looking After Infant Mental Health: Our Case for Change. The report summarises evidence from research and practice, offering ways of rethinking our approach to improving the health and wellbeing of young children in care.


So it’s a good moment to celebrate and thank our incredible FDAC volunteers. An important element of the FDAC model is the parent mentor programme, offering parents support from mentors who have been through FDAC themselves. New FDACs who don’t yet have their own graduates as parent mentors recruit volunteer parents from other local services who have been helped through care proceedings and/or substance misuse recovery.

FDAC parent mentors accompany parents at court and in meetings, act as role models through the huge challenges to be overcome, and help parents stay focused on the rewards ahead for themselves and their children.

One parent wrote:

‘What’s good about it is hearing someone else’s experience and how they came through it. FDAC are all professionals but the mentor is just like me. It helped a lot.’

Read and listen to more about FDAC parent mentors here.

+ 3 May 2016: Watch FDAC’s new video. Listen to FDAC parents ‘talking heads’. Read about the benefits of Motivational Interviewing.

FDAC NU has created a new promotion video. Click here to hear from FDAC parents, Local Authority Commissioners, and the Judiciary who have an intimate experience of the FDAC model; to hear their explanation of the FDAC process, why they think the FDAC model works and how it creates a better experience of justice for parents. The video also includes Sir James Munby’s, President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, positive views on FDAC.

 On our reflections from parents page you can also listen to some talking heads from 3 FDAC parents about their experiences, the challenges, the benefits and why they think FDAC is different to ordinary care proceedings.

 Lastly for this post, Donald Forrester, Professor of Social Work Research and Director of the Tilda Goldberg Centre for Social Work and Social Care, Bedfordshire, has written a useful article explaining the benefit of Motivational Interviewing in social work practice. The FDAC Judges and team are trained by the FDAC NU to use this strengths-based approach. Parents and Judges have given  feedback on the positive impact it has had, motivating FDAC parents to put their best foot forward.

 “I have been enabled to learn, grown and take accountability for my actions as a parent”

 “You helped me reflect back on the past and deal with my issues”

– Quotes from  two FDAC parents

+ 4 April 2016: Founder Judge awarded Honorary Doctorate

Congratulations – the Unit is one year old, and our founder judge has a new award

It’s the start of our second year of operation and we are busy firming up our next work programme. The focus will stay the same: supporting existing FDACs, helping new sites to get going, implementing the lessons from practice. Check the website for what we’ve achieved so far and watch out for new developments in the months ahead.

In the meantime, please join us in celebrating yet another well-deserved and prestigious accolade for the first UK FDAC judge, Nick Crichton.

Last month Nick received the award of Honorary Doctor of Education from the University of East London and The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust . This honour marks his contribution “to child and family welfare and to the development of problem-solving models of justice”.IMG_0205 EditedIn his citation for the award, Steve Bambrough praised Nick’s lifetime achievements in promoting family justice here and across the world.

In his response, Nick (on the bottom left in the photo) spoke of the “compassion, empathy, respect and humility” that mark the approach of the FDAC court and specialist team to people in difficulties.

Read more here.

+ 18 March 2016: New article in Children & Young People Now

Problem Solving Justice – Children & Young People Now, 18 March 2016

An overview of FDACs problem solving approach to care proceedings. Head of Policy and Programmes at Coram, Kamena Dorling, looks at the role of the Family, Drug and Alcohol Court in keeping more children with their families and the cost-savings its work can bring.

Read the article here. 

+ 7 March 2016: New findings - financial impact of the London Family Drug and Alcohol Court

FDAC works – new findings

New evidence is released this week about the benefits of the FDAC approach to care proceedings.

A report from the National Unit partner agency, the Centre for Justice Innovation, demonstrates that FDACs save money for the taxpayer, as well as being a better way to help children be cared for safely by their parents.

The new analysis of the London FDAC caseload shows that, for each £1 spent, £2.30 is saved to the public purse.

These cashable savings accrue primarily from FDAC’s better outcomes:

• fewer children permanently removed from their families
• fewer families returning to court and
• less substance misuse.

The report shows that savings generated by FDAC exceed the cost of the service within two years of the start of the case.

Check the web page for the report Better Courts: the financial impact of the London Family Drug and Alcohol Court and for information about the different strands of National Unit activity.

+ 29 February 2016: FDAC Judges forum

Judges welcome FDAC

We recently hosted the successful inaugural meeting of Judges from the FDAC courts hearing cases from the 15 local authorities now providing an FDAC service in England. It was chaired by Nick Crichton, who established the first FDAC court 8 years ago and is the Judicial Training Lead for the FDAC National Unit.

The purpose of the meeting was to offer Judges the opportunity of sharing their experiences of operating a problem-solving approach to care proceedings. They were joined by the senior social work practitioner and domestic abuse specialist from the London FDAC multi-disciplinary team, and by members of the National Unit’s Implementation Team that helps local areas develop and embed their FDAC service.

The group asked the National Unit to facilitate a second meeting in September 2016, and then annual events.

Common themes emerged:

The value of professional continuity: Having the same lawyers, social workers and guardians throughout the case helps ensure that the process runs smoothly, for both the early hearings with lawyers and then the fortnightly non-lawyer reviews. Having dedicated FDAC guardians was seen as particularly useful.

The value of spreading the word about the local FDAC service: FDAC teams and other local champions were praised for disseminating information about FDAC regularly – to social workers and managers, lawyers, guardians and treatment services. This was seen as helpful generally, for maintaining interest and commitment, and crucial as agencies cope with changes in personnel at both senior management and practitioner level.

The value of judges interacting with and motivating parents – Judges were extremely positive about the FDAC model. They spoke of seeing change in parents, both in their confidence in having their say in court and in their growing insight into the impact on their children of their complex difficulties.

“It is a joy to see parents become more confident as the case progresses.”

“It’s a very rewarding process – parents enjoy the praise they get. They enjoy coming to court.”

Read more about the FDAC court process.
Read what other parents say about being in FDAC.

+ 8 January 2016: Early FDAC - working with mothers to break the cycle of having babies removed

This week (8 January 2016) we say Happy New Year to readers old and new!

Our website resolutions are two-fold:

First – we are determined to sort out the annoying glitch that throws up a page error message when you least expect or want it. Please bear with us. And do keep sending us comments about the website content. Send us a quick email:

Second – we will keep bringing you the latest news about what is happening in FDAC policy, practice and research. In the news this week is the research evidence about the rise in children losing their parents at birth and the involvement of different organisations committed to helping families avoid and/or recover from that trauma. This includes Early FDAC, an extension to the successful Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) programme. As the article explains, Early FDAC works with parents who face difficulties arising from substance misuse and other complex problems, working with women in pregnancy and afterwards, even if their baby is removed through care proceedings.

Read the online Guardian article here.

+ 14 December 2015: Exploring problem-solving courts - developments and discussions

This week (14 December) has had a busy start!

First is our involvement in this morning’s breaking news about new research into the relationship between young motherhood and the risk of court-ordered removal of children at birth, and about the practical support that can make the difference to women coping with such a traumatic experience.

Sophie Kershaw, co-director of the National Unit and co-author of the study with Professor Karen Broadhurst of Lancaster University, says: “The FDAC model provides a better kind of care proceedings to protect some of our most vulnerable children. Our outcomes show that FDAC is more successful at bringing families back together, keeping children safe, and breaking the cycle of repeat removals. It’s also cheaper, with money spent on specialist services rather than legal costs.”

Read more here:

Second, we’re moving on from a burst of inter-country discussion last week with some eminent champions of problem-solving justice.

In collaboration with our partner agency, the Centre for Justice Innovation, the FDAC National Unit hosted a seminar to explore developments in the USA, Scotland and England. The room hummed with the shared vision and enduring optimism of people who have succeeded in establishing pioneering new approaches to the way justice is delivered in criminal and family court settings.

Judge Alex Calabrese is presiding judge at the Red Hook Community Justice Center in New York, where the court takes a one-stop, coordinated approach to people’s problems. He said: “We do much more than process cases in court … We take the opportunity to try and do the right thing for people … We take a trauma-informed approach, and we see the power of the human spirit at work.”

Sheriff Lindsay Wood runs the Glasgow Drug Court, with a specialist multi-disciplinary treatment team reporting to the court in a way that parallels the FDAC model. He said: “We do dialogue … We take a tough love approach … We put a metaphoric arm round people’s shoulders … I demonstrate that I care, and I do care.”

District Judge Nick Crichton, whose unflagging persistence established FDAC in England, commented: “FDAC isn’t a soft touch. It’s a way of using the authority of the court to bring about change.”

It was uplifting to hear, too, of the new interest from Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, in working with the judiciary to develop specialist courts, tackling problems such as domestic abuse and substance misuse, alongside crime.

Judge Calabrese with Judge Nick Crichton (far left) and other members the FDAC NU.

Judge Calabrese with Judge Nick Crichton (far left) and other members the FDAC NU.

We are delighted by the growing momentum for testing different approaches to family justice more widely in the UK. Want to find out more?

Read about The principles of problem-solving courts.

Or dip into the research evidence underpinning FDAC for reflections from those interviewed, including the FDAC judge who said to parents in one case: “This court is different. We don’t do conflict. We minimise conflict. This is about solving problems.” And the local authority lawyer who said of FDAC: “It’s effective. It’s how care proceedings ought to be.”

+ 3 December 2015: Reflections from FDAC parents

This week (3 December) we have added a new page to our website. It’s where we will be alerting you to Reflections from parents who have been through FDAC.

The London FDAC has an excellent track record of collecting feedback from parents as their work with the specialist team and court draws to a close. And, increasingly, parents are being invited to speak in public about their experience.

We start the new page with contributions from two parents who spoke recently at the AGM of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, the lead Partner in the work of the FDAC National Unit.

We will update you now and again with contributions from other parents and family members.

+ 27 November 2015: 3 West Yorkshire FDACs launch!

This week (27 November) FDAC went live in 3 of the 5 local authorities (Bradford, Calderdale and Leeds) in the West Yorkshire site, with the first case being presented to the FDAC court in Leeds.

In preparation for going live, the West Yorkshire project manager has been busy briefing local authority and CAFCASS teams in the region, private practice solicitors and barristers’ chambers, Local Safeguarding Children Boards and Family Justice Board performance sub-groups, and Family Group Conference (FGC) services.

Here are some comments from the professionals involved in the first hearing:

“It was clear that the child remained at the centre of decision making.”

“It was so very different from the usual [care proceedings] hearing.”

“Everyone had a chance to speak and the judge was at pains to make sure that the parent understood the process and any jargon.”

+ 19 November 2015: National Unit’s Co-director writes blog for Alcohol Awareness

This week (19 November) is Alcohol Awareness Week. Sophie Kershaw, co-director of the FDAC National Unit, was invited to write a blog for the Cavendish Square Group, the umbrella organisation for the 10 London mental health trusts. Check the full blog here.

Sophie focuses on the practical ways in which FDACs offer parents the best possible chance of helping their children – by overcoming their alcohol (and/or drugs) problems.

She quotes from parents who gave feedback to the London FDAC team earlier this year:

 “I was in such a state of denial that I could not see my drinking as the major problem it was. I thought I just needed to cut down. It finally dawned on me that I needed to fully engage with FDAC and take advantage of the help and support they were giving me.”

 “FDAC has helped me be the sort of person I want to be. It’s helped me remain abstinent, focused and motivated and instilled in me a real sense of achievement and confidence.”

+ 12 November 2015: FDAC National Unit – National Network Event

This week (12 November) the National Unit hosted another networking event, for 10 local authorities working up plans for opening their FDAC next year. For part of the time, the London specialist team described a typical week, covering the role of the social work, substance misuse and domestic abuse clinicians, and explaining how the team liaises with local community services to co-ordinate parents’ implementation plans. A participant commented:

“Mark, the parent mentor, made me realise how central to FDAC is the work of mentors, not just to encourage and support parents but also to get buy-in from them from the outset.”

Meanwhile, in Exeter, the South West Pensinsula had an upbeat and successful evening launch, attended by a wide range of interested agencies and individuals, including Public Health and the Police and Crime Commissioner … as well as local media contacts.

+ 6 November 2015: South West Peninsula FDAC opens!

The exciting news this week (6 November) is the opening of the first of three FDAC courts in the South West (SW) Peninsula. Next week the SW Steering Group is holding a formal launch in Exeter, to present the work so far – and plans for the future – to an invited audience of all agencies with an interest in making FDAC a success.

Both these achievements come hot on the foot of the recent 4-day training from the National Unit for the SW judges and specialist team. A participant commented: “It’s been just fantastic. I feel privileged to be part of such a pioneering approach.”   

+ 29 October 2015: FDAC training – feedback from new teams and judges

This week (29 October) we have been reviewing feedback from more 4-day training sessions for the FDAC sites that will be opening this year. The messages from judges and members of the specialist team are heart warming and energising.

‘I didn’t enjoy, but really valued, role playing the FDAC meeting of professionals with parents, and the court hearing with its problem-solving approach.’

‘I liked the way the core principles of the FDAC model were demonstrated by the dynamics of the National Unit training team – transparency, boundaries, rigour.’

‘It helped me understand how the FDAC model, with its assessment and therapeutic intervention, could benefit families and help keep children safely at home. And for all care proceedings.’

‘Loved it – can’t wait to start!’

+ 22 October 2015: Coventry FDACs first family!

This week the Coventry FDAC Team started work with their first FDAC family! The Coventry multidisciplinary team are all in post, trained and really excited to start work with parents referred to FDAC. See the Coventry team in the picture below. Click here to read more about Coventry FDAC and other sites opening soon this year!

+ 17 October 2015: FDAC National Unit website launch

The exciting news this week is that the website is up and running for you! We hope you like it and will find it useful. Scroll around and – if you have a moment – tell us what you think and what more you’d like from us. And watch this space for new breaking news each Thursday. During October we’ll tell you about parents and parent mentors speaking publicly about their experience of FDAC, what new FDAC judges and teams think about the training from the National Unit, and the opening of the first new extra FDAC site this year.