Helping keep families together: A £15 million boost

The Government has recently announced a £15 million investment to fund a new innovative project named ‘Supporting Families; Investing in Practice’, aimed at keeping families together and reducing the number of children in care.

The programme, modelled on the successful existing ‘Family Drug and Alcohol Courts’ and a programme known as Family Group Conferencing, is estimated to benefit vulnerable families in up to 40 new areas.

Family Drug and Alcohol Courts

The FDAC will place focus on a problem-solving approach to proceedings. In each case an early assessment will be carried out by a team of social workers, misuse specialists, domestic violence experts and physiatrists. Followed by an agreed plan with parents who come before the courts, where a trial “free of charge” trail begins. The proceedings are be supported by the expert team and regular meetings with the judge adjudicating.

Initially pioneered by the late district judge Nicholas Crichton in 2008 this type of specialist court has previously been implemented [23 local authorities] and although it previously faced funding uncertainties it was highly successful. FDAC were found to save public sector bodies £2.30 for every £1 spent on the FDAC (Centre of Justice Innovation research).  Further, it was shown that mothers using FDAC were more successful in stopping substance misuse by the end of family proceedings, leading to a higher number of families being reunited (University of Lancaster).  

‘The problem-solving Family Drug and Alcohol Court model achieves better outcomes for parents, better outcomes for children, and better value for money. It is a fair and trauma-informed approach which gives people the best chance of change and that’s why it makes for better justice. We’re delighted that this funding will enable more families and local authorities to have access to a compassionate and evidence-based approach to family justice’ – Steve Bambrough, Associate Clinical Director at the Tavistock Clinic and member of the FDAC National Partnership,

This type of pioneering approach has been described by Sir James Munby, outgoing president of the family division as ‘one of the most important developments in family justice in the last 40 years’. Therefore, the schemes planned expansion to new sites and assessment and improvement of existing sites marks a pivotal step to aiding the justice system in aiding families and resolving familial disputes.

[The implementation will be overseen by the children’s social care What Works Centre.]

Family Group Conferencing

The project will also introduce family group conferences. Where children at immediate risk of being taken into care, and it is appropriate, a conference will be held with their wider family network and advocate support. Together all involved parties, families, experts and social workers, will agree a plan best suited for the child and will agree a to meet again to assess the plans effectiveness and make any changes deemed necessary.

‘Projects like there are making sure vulnerable families get the support they need form experts who can help them address their problems head on and stop them from spiralling out of control’ said Nadhim Zahwabi MP, children and families minister.

As such, it is evident that with the rising number of children being taken into care, the government and judiciary have taken positive actions in improving the outcomes for vulnerable children and their families.

How this will impact upon making improvements on the Ground is yet to be seen with so many Family Contact Centres closing.

We offer legal aid for family children care proceedings. Please do contact us if you would like a free appointment to discuss your case.

By Aleksandra Tomaszek, Work Experience Student

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