….if I have a drug/alcohol problem


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.

FDAC offers:

  • 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 [2014] 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 [2014]. 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?

7 thoughts on “….if I have a drug/alcohol problem

  1. jacqueline campbell

    I have just read the above, and am quite confused, my grandsons mother and himself have been on a c p plan for nearly a year due to her drug addiction (my son also had an addiction) at the last c p meeting the social worker and m s t worker spoke up for my grandsons mother and said they felt she was doing extreamly well and should come off c p and go onto a c i n plan but only due to my sons life style, and were not concerned with the morhers drug taking as she was addressing the matter, the chair said she would put my grandson on c i n but asked that social workers put time into my son so that he could get his overnights back, this hasn,t happened, we have attended every meeting, a month ago we were informed that a new social worker was taking over,my son has had contact with her over the phone. but not my self. last week there was a meeting which we were not informed of and that evening my grandsons mother text me to say social services had closed the case and she was soley incharge of contact, stating it was my responsibility to go get my grandson if i wanted to have him at weekends and return him, we always met half way for pickup and drop off, but the m s t worker has told her she doesnt have to do this, i know she is still taking drugs tho this is denied, the m s t worker has made it very difficult for both myself and my son, he was removed by social services last year and placed with me whilst an assesment was done, i was getting no help from anyone for my grandson, so at a meeting i decided he should be returned to her, only to be informed by my 9 yr old grandson his mother had told him i sent him home because i couldn,t cope with him, this is not true,, i was the overseer for my grandson when he was born as the mother had already had one son taken off her for drug misues (over 15 yrs ago) i have concerns for my granchild as he twxt me on fri eve saying he wants to be dead, i am scared that if i tell social services and they inform her she will stop all contact,, i have a deep bond with my grandson, and him with me ,it is known by social services that there is a detatchment with himself and his mum, and his only wish is to live with me,, what advice can you give me, i don,t want to cause my grandson any added stress or his mum, but things do not seem right, why apoint a new social worker if the case was being closed a week later

    1. Sarah Phillimore

      You are in a very difficult position; if the case has been closed I assume that is because the SW thinks all is well. If you have concerns about your grandson, you should tell someone, but I can understand that this might mean his mother is less willing to promote contact with you. If he is saying he wishes he was dead, that is worrying.

      It sounds as if you do have a good relationship with him, so you would be given leave by the court to apply for a child arrangements order if the mother refused to let you have contact – but I appreciate that isn’t much of a solution if you can’t afford to pay for legal help; there won’t be any legal aid for this kind of application any more.

      Is there any friend/family member who could talk to her on your behalf or arrange a meeting?

      If you think your grandson genuinely wants to live with you and his mum doesn’t agree, then all you can do is consider going to court I am afraid. But that often isn’t a great solution because it can stir people up into being even bigger enemies than they were before.

      Given the serious nature of what your grandson is texting you, I would report this to children’s services – but I appreciate this may not get you the outcome you want if they have now closed the case.

      1. jacqueline campbell

        how can they just close the case when a new social worker has only just been appointed and not even met me or my son, i honestly believe the m s t can has a lot to do with this decision, i have never missed a meeting in 3 years and have always been informed when they are taking place, somethin just doesnt seem right, plus they wer suppose to be doing work with my son so he could have his weekends back and NOTHING has been put in place, when my sons x partner text me to say s s were not involved she said she felt things should stay as they are, no contact at his fathers and no over nights, yet in court 6 yrs ago he was given fri till sun and wed, s w said because he hadnt done the wed contact (only because he,d started school) they had the right to stop it

      2. jacqueline campbell

        NOTHING has been put in place, when my sons x partner text me to say s s were not involved she said she felt things should stay as they are, no contact at his fathers and no over nights, yet in court 6 yrs ago he was given fri till sun and wed, s w said because he hadnt done the wed contact (only because he,d started school) they had the right to stop it and why waste money appointing a new s w for a week

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