9th Dec, 2016

New Coventry family drug and alcohol court aims to reduce children in care

Les Reid 27th Oct, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A PIONEERING court specialising in tackling drug and alcohol issues in families whose children are facing care proceedings has been launched in Coventry.

Coventry’s Family Drug and Alcohol Court is a Midlands first, and aims to keep families together rather than having children taken into care.

Its the latest attempt to improve child protection in Coventry since the death of schoolboy Daniel Pelka and an “inadequate” Ofsted rating for the council’s children’s services department.

Watchdog Ofsted has for years found the number of children in care in Coventry to be too high.

The new court will receive £324,000 funding over two years from the government’s Department for Education, and £180,000 from Coventry City Council.

The court is the first of eight potential new sites across the country to launch.

The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC)’s team of specialists include social workers, domestic violence workers and psychiatrists work alongside families during intensive intervention throughout the court proceedings.

Families will see their judge every fortnight to address problems and try to resolve their issues, with the aim of stopping or stabilising the parents’ use of drugs and keeping the family together.

Cllr Ed Ruane, the council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “I have seen the evidence of how effective the FDAC has been in other areas of the country in helping families to overcome substance misuse, prevent relapses and where possible, keep their families together.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the positive impacts that the Family Drug and Alcohol Court’s approach will have on Coventry children and their families.”

Her Honour Judge Hilary Watson, designated family judge for Coventry and Warwickshire said: “This is a new approach which I wholly endorse. We, the FDAC Judges will oversee the progress made by parents.

“It will be tough and there are no guarantees of success but if families can safely remain together, we will ensure that this happens.

“This is a pilot scheme in Coventry but I am hopeful that the FDAC methods will prove to have wider appeal and be applied in other areas in the coming years.”

Sophie Kershaw, co-director of the FDAC National Unit, said: ““FDAC is radical, yet obvious. Rooted in the idea of problem-solving justice, it offers demonstrably better outcomes for children and families.

“The problem-solving court approach helps strengthens parents’ motivation to overcome their problems and FDAC gets families working successfully with social workers, adult treatment teams and judges in court.”

She continued: “Since its conception in 2008, FDAC has continued to grow, develop and help bring more families together. The  FDAC National Unit will continue to support the implementation of the new Coventry FDAC.”

Last year, research by a team at Brunel University, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found FDAC had helped 35 per cent of mothers become reunited with children, compared with 19 per cent in the ordinary family courts.