PLT Masthead 430

Masthead Education - Child Protection

Top family judge concerned at prospective closure of FDAC National Unit

The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has expressed concern at the “profoundly disturbing news” that the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) National Unit has had to withdraw its application for funding to the Life Chances Fund because lack of support from local authorities.

The National Unit has said it will close in September because of a lack of continuing funding from central government.

Writing for Family Law, Sir James said: “This is grim news, not least at a time when, as both I and my designated successor made clear at the launch [of the Care Crisis Review last week], the care system is in crisis.”

Describing FDAC as “one of the most important developments in family justice in the last 40 years”, the President noted that:

  • Research had demonstrated that more children were reunified with parents if the case went through FDAC than through the normal family court, and there was significantly less subsequent breakdown
  • FDAC saved the local authorities who participated significant sums of money: £2.30 for every £1 spent.
  • FDAC had grown from a single pilot in London to a service which was now available in many, “though still not nearly enough”, parts of the country.
  • FDAC, like PAUSE, should be available “to all parents facing the frightening prospect of losing their children to the care system and it is vital that both FDAC and PAUSE continue to be funded on a sustainable basis”.
  • FDAC and PAUSE were not alternatives; the one was not a substitute for the other.

Sir James said his ambition was that every part of the country should have access, depending on their circumstances, to either FDAC or PAUSE – “something that too many at present are denied because of a postcode lottery”.

He added that the continued expansion of FDAC was critically dependent upon the work of the National Unit, “whose invaluable work, as midwife and then as health visitor, is so important in the planning, implementation and nurturing of each new FDAC”.

The President said: “While I very much hope that this latest development will not prejudice the continuing viability of the established FDACs, this profoundly disturbing news must be of immense concern to everyone who, like me, is passionate about the need to improve our family justice system for the benefit of the families, children and parents we serve.

“For those families and parents, unable at present to access FDAC, and who were anticipating the possible early arrival of an FDAC in their area, the outlook is bleak in the extreme. They surely deserve better of us.”

He added: “What this demonstrates is, dare it be said, a failure of imagination, of vision and of commitment by government, national and local.”

Sir James also called for a ministerial visit to an FDAC to see how it operated.

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