Care pilot programme to tackle parents' substance misuse launches in Bedfordshire

A new pilot programme aimed at supporting parents to address their substance misuse and concerns about parenting has launched in Bedfordshire.

The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) is a pan-Bedfordshire initiative which is an alternative form of care proceedings, where parents’ substance misuse is a key concern for children’s wellbeing.

FDAC ribbon cutting

FDAC ribbon cutting

It is a problem-solving approach to target individual families’ complex difficulties. Research shows that, compared to standard care proceedings, more parents achieve and sustain abstinence within Family Drug and Alcohol Court, and significantly more children are able to return to or remain in their parents’ care.

The Family Drug and Alcohol Court tries to solve the problems that have led the local authority to bring a parent to court.

Parents must agree to join the process, after which they will have fortnightly face-to-face contact with a specialist Judge, who reviews the case. And there is also a team of specialist workers to give intensive support to help each family.

The pan-Bedfordshire Family Drug and Alcohol Court is a collaboration between the Children’s Services of Central Bedfordshire Council, Luton Borough Council and Bedford Borough Council with the Bedfordshire Family Court.

The three Local Authorities have committed almost £300,000 to the Family Drug and Alcohol Court pilot. This commitment reflects the shared belief that the Family Drug and Alcohol Court will result in improved outcomes for Bedfordshire children and their families.

There are 11 Family Drug and Alcohol Courts in the UK, the two-year Bedfordshire Family Drug and Alcohol Court pilot is the first one which has been set up in partnership with the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire (as a base alliance) and Public Health Services. The other partners include Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and the Marks Trust. Support from partners include grant funding and practical support.

The lead Judge for Bedfordshire Family Drug and Alcohol Court, His Honour Judge Peruško, said: “FDAC provides a fantastic opportunity for parents who really do want to tackle the core difficulties which prevent them from parenting their children.

"Drugs, alcohol, domestic abuse and mental health are complex and interrelated problems which often arise in families who find themselves involved in court proceedings.

“It is very hard for parents to overcome those issues. That means that children often cannot safely live with their parents. The best place for children to be brought up is within their family.

"FDAC gives these parents the best possible opportunity to change their lives in a way which makes it safe for their children to remain at home.

“The team provide intensive support and encouragement to effect and sustain change.

"FDAC works. It has been shown that more parents achieve and sustain abstinence having been through the FDAC process and, importantly, more children remain with their parents.

"I am delighted that a broad range of agencies within Bedfordshire have come together to set up a service which will provide much better outcomes for children in the county.”

Judge Perusko will run the Bedford FDAC and his colleague Judge Spinks will run the Luton FDAC.

Central Bedfordshire Council Executive Member for Families, Education and Children, cllr Sue Clark, said: “The Family Drug and Alcohol Court is an exciting pilot that holds a lot of potential for positive outcomes for children and their families.

"Ultimately, our aim is to do everything we can to help families stay together or to help children return to their families and for parents to continue to be involved with their children.”

Cllr Mahmood Hussain, Luton Borough Council portfolio holder for Children’s Services said: “The Family Drug and Alcohol Court is a fantastic initiative giving parents practical support giving them the best chance of overcoming their difficulties so that they can care for their children and ultimately create a stable and safe family that is able to stay together.”

Cllr James Valentine, Bedford Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services and Education, said: “Bedford Borough welcomes partnership working providing support to families in crisis across the county.

“FDAC has a specialist team using a bespoke problem-solving approach working with families to support complex difficulties. Keeping families together in a happy, safe environment is our priority.”