What happens if I ask for help with addiction to alcohol or drugs?
For further help and support see our Links and Resources page
This is a difficult area and no assurances can be made regarding individual cases. Your recovery from addiction may depend on disclosing your difficulties to your GP, and/or local alcohol and drug services. However, if these professionals are concerned that your drinking, or drug use, affects your ability to care for your children, they are duty bound to refer you to Social Services, with or without your permission.
There is no hard and fast rule as to who will be referred; this is a matter of clinical judgement and opinion. See Statement 3.14 Care of People who Misuse Drugs and Alcohol by the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Its ‘Key Messages’ are as follows:
People with drug and alcohol problems are often stigmatised by society and professionals
• Drug and alcohol misuse are common problems in the community and need to be treated with compassion
• As a general practitioner (GP) you are ideally placed to identify people with drug or alcohol problems and need to be aware of the extent and consequences of these problems
• All general practitioners have a responsibility for providing general medical care to people registered with them who have drug or alcohol problems
• Primary care-based interventions for drug and alcohol problems can be very effective in reducing physical, psychological and social harm, for both the patient and the community
• Helping people with drug and alcohol problems can be very rewarding for the doctor and life changing for the patient
If you are having problems, it will be better to get help as soon as you can, rather than leaving things until they become more out of hand and the child(ren)’s school become concerned about absence or the standard of care of the children.
See what the National Treatment Agency for Substance Abuse says about parents who enter treatment. This ‘is a protective factor towards keeping their children with them, and meeting their emotional and physical needs in the future’.
You can contact Alcoholics Anonymous for help and advice.
Or Narcotics Anonymous for help with drug addiction.
The work of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC)
- See this article in Family Law Week which gives an overview of the work of the court.
- In February 2015 DfE funding of £2.5 million was awarded to roll out FDAC in more areas
For a video about more recent research into FDAC – watch this from April 2016. The President of the Family Division recently commented (September 2016) that the FDAC approach is very important.
There is also a 2014 report from Brunel University about the work of FDAC and the hopes that it can be used more widely. The report noted that parental substance misuse is a major risk factor for child maltreatment. It is a factor in up to two-thirds of care applications and parents with substance misuse problems are often involved in repeat care proceedings in relation to subsequent children.
How is FDAC different from ‘normal’ care proceedings?
FDAC is different from the normal approach of the court in care proceedings. Instead, it is:
a court-based family intervention that aims to improve children’s outcomes by addressing the entrenched difficulties of their parents. FDAC is a specialist court operating within the framework of care proceedings.
- Judicial continuity
- problem solving, therapeutic approach
- a specialist multi discliplinary team
This approach has been shown to have a positive impact on the families who come through FDAC so we hope the scheme can continue to grow and become the norm for dealing with families with substance abuse issues. The report found:
- A higher proportion of FDAC than comparison parents had ceased misusing by the end of proceedings and the differences reached statistical significance: 40% [35 of 88] of FDAC mothers were no longer misusing substances, compared to 25% [24 of 95]12 of comparison mothers; and
- 25% of FDAC fathers [13 of 52]13 were no longer misusing substances, compared to 5% [2 of 38]14 of the comparison fathers.
- In both samples, more parents continued to misuse than to stop.
- A greater proportion of FDAC [32 of 90] than comparison [24 of 101] mothers were reunited with their children (36% v 24%) but the difference did not reach statistical significance.
- However, the difference between the proportion of FDAC [31 of 88] and comparison [18 of 95] mothers who had stopped misusing and had been reunited with their children did reach statistical significance (35% v 19%). This was because some mothers in the comparison sample who had not stopped misusing, but had reduced their consumption, were reunited with their children.
Impact on cost of proceedings.
The FDAC scheme also showed a positive impact on reducing the costs of such proceedings.
The average cost of the FDAC team per family was £8,740 over the life of the case.This cost is offset by savings to the local authorities from more children staying in their families, both during the proceedings and after final order.
• FDAC reduced costs in other ways: through shorter care placements (£4,000 less per child); shorter court hearings and less need for legal representatives at hearings (saving local authorities £682 per family); and fewer contested cases. In addition, the specialist team carries out work equivalent to that done by experts in ordinary care cases, and this saved £1,200 per case.
• FDAC has the potential to save money in the longer term for adult treatment, health and probation services.
• The costing method used for this evaluation provides a solid basis for investigating the cost effectiveness and cost benefits of the FDAC model.
I have made good progress dealing with my addictions – what questions will the court ask?
The case of the London Borough of Wandsworth v W  dealt with a mother in her forties who had made good progress dealing with her drink and substance abuse issues. Sadly, the court were not convinced she could sustain the changes she had made.
The court considered that the questions which needed to be asked were those as set out by the President of the Family Division in Re S . See paragraph 58 of the judgment:
(1) Is there some solid, evidence-based reason to believe that the parent is committed to making the necessary changes?
(2) Is there some solid, evidence-based reason to believe that the parent will be able to maintain that commitment?
(3) Is there some solid, evidence-based reason to believe that the parent will be able to make the necessary changes within J’s timescale?