….if I have a drug/alcohol problem


What happens if I ask for help with addiction to alcohol or drugs?

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 Children’s 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.


Testing for alcohol use in care proceedings

The court may order hair strand tests, blood or liver function tests.

You can also be ordered to wear a SCRAM bracelet (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) to check your alcohol use. Below is a precedent for the type of order the court might make.

  • The [mother/father] shall be fitted with a SCRAM bracelet to provide ongoing monitoring of alcohol consumption. The SCRAM monitoring service shall be provided by Lextox. The testing shall cover a period of 28 days from the date the device is fitted. The solicitor for the [mother/father] shall take the lead in setting up the SCRAM monitoring. The SCRAM service will however be monitored and administered by [local authority] Children’s department, due to them being in more regular direct contact with the [mother/father]. The results of the monitoring shall be distributed to all parties every 14 days.
  • Permission to the [mother/father’s] solicitor to share this Order with Lextox (order suitably redacted if necessary) to ensure that SCRAM monitoring is set up in accordance with the requirements set out above.
  • The cost of the above monitoring shall be shared equally between the local authority, the mother, the father and the children’s guardian the court considering that the costs of the above testing to be a necessary, reasonable and proportionate expense under the public funding certificates of the publicly funded parties.

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?

You may be able to enter into residential detox programmes but there are very limited options for residential placements for parents and children. Trevi House in Plymouth is currently the only residential unit in the country which allows mothers and children to be assessed together while the mother deals with drug or alcohol issues. From December 2013 – December 2015 76% of women admitted to Trevi House left drug and alcohol free.

Other resources

The Oasis Project – helping families affected by drugs and alcohol. Offers services in Brighton and East Sussex.

Phoenix Futures – a charity and housing association providing services for people affected by substance misuse. We help anyone affected by problematic drug and alcohol use. Between 2015 and 2016 we helped 23,650 people take their first step into recovery and to rebuild their lives. Of this number, 787 people were helped by our residential and housing services, 16,802 people were helped by our community services, and 732 were helped by our prison services.


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.


Joshua Rozenberg  reported on his Facebook page on June 20th 2018  

A highly successful problem-solving court is at grave risk for want of £250,000, the pioneering judge who set it up has told me.

The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) has had great success in helping women to keep babies who would otherwise be taken away from them at birth and put into care. There is a national unit that develops new FDAC sites and supports those already in existence. Its funding runs out in September. £250,000 is the annual cost of the unit.

The Earl of Listowel, a cross-bench peer, explained the problems during a debate in the House of Lords this afternoon:

“I was very sad to hear that the Family Drug and Alcohol Court implementation unit is to close in September. I learned this just this week from Sir James Munby—and I am sorry not to have given the Minister notice that I wished to raise it as a concern today. I am very concerned; I visited it several times and have seen parents being given certificates enabling them to retain their child, who otherwise might be taken into care.

“This wonderful court, introduced by the district judge Nicholas Crichton, allows judicial continuity over 12 months with a family. It allows the use of a multidisciplinary team, including social workers and clinical psychologists, to work with these families. It is tremendously effective in preventing children being taken into local authority care. To go back to concerns raised by my noble and learned friend Lord Thomas, it may not save the courts or the MoJ huge amounts of money, but it saves local authorities huge amounts of money and saves society a great deal of money in the longer term.

“I will read briefly from an article by Sir James Munby on the closure of FDAC, which is to be published shortly:

“‘In the same week as we saw the launch of the Care Crisis Review, undertaken by the Family Rights Group with the support of the Nuffield Foundation, came the 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 of lack of support from local authorities’ on which it now depends. The Government have historically funded its work, which has been most welcome. They have recently stopped doing so, which is why it needs local authority funding.

“In addition, he says, came the news that ‘the National Unit would be closing in September because of the lack of continuing funding from central government. This is grim news, not least at a time when, as both I and my designated successor made clear at the launch, the care system is in crisis'”.

“That refers to the system of child protection for children in foster care. Sir James continues:

“’FDAC is the most researched of the recent innovations in family justice. Rigorous, high quality academic evaluation … has proved, conclusively, that FDAC works … Similarly rigorous independent evaluation proves that FDAC saves the local authorities who participate significant sums of money: £2.30 for every £1 spent. FDAC is one of the most important developments in family justice in the last 40 years’.”

Responding to Lord Listowel, the justice minister Lord Keen made it clear that he knew very little about the problem. The minister promised to write to Lord Listowel ” in due course”.

Nicholas Crichton told me today: “What is particularly galling is that government seems unable to recognise that a family justice system that removes the 4th, 5th, 6th child from the same parents for the same reason is a failing (failed?) system.

“FDAC offers an alternative that in many cases enables children to remain within their families, and then the families don’t go on having more children in the vain hope that they will be able to keep them.

“FDAC has been continuously researched for 10 years. It is vociferously supported by the President of the Family Division and by his successor Lord Justice McFarlane. The research demonstrates that it works and that it saves money.”


The former President of the Family Division commented on 20th June 2018

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.


Nagalro Joins Voices Condemning FDAC National Unit Closure

Following the announcement that the FDAC National Unit is to close at the end of September and a recent urgent meeting in the House of Lords attended by, amongst others, Tim Loughton, Emma Lewell-Buck, the Earl of Listowel, Professor Karen Broadhurst, Cathy Ashley and retired District Judge Nicholas Crichton, Nagalro has joined with others condemning this move as short-sighted and financially illiterate.

Whilst acknowledging that the closure will not directly lead to the closure of any of the 10 current FDACs, Nagalro is concerned that, without the National Unit to support, train and promote those bodies and to maintain consistency, they will simply be left to wither on the vine. One by one, cash-strapped local authorities, encouraged by the withdrawal of central government support, will find that funds can be directed elsewhere. Without the co-ordination, training and promotional activities of the National Unit, it is unlikely that new FDACs will be set up.
This is a tragedy for the families who are helped by the FDAC, a severe blow to the children and, in the medium to long-term will mean increased costs to the public.

The astonishing thing about this decision is that it comes without explanation and in the face of consistent research showing the benefits of the FDAC system and the dividends it provides to public finances. Parents who are assisted to come off drugs do not need to commit offences to fund their habit; the costs of prosecuting them and imprisoning them is saved. Some will get jobs and pay taxes. Children who can, at the end of the process, be safely rehabilitated to their parents’ care do not cost the taxpayers foster care allowances.

In December 2016, Professor Judith Harwin and others prepared a report for the Department for Education’s Social Care Innovation Programme which, after a five-year study, showed that:

• 46 per cent of FDAC mothers had ceased to misuse by the end of the proceedings, compared to 30 per cent in the comparison group;
• 37 per cent of the FDAC families were reunited or continued to live together, compared to 25 per cent of families in conventional proceedings;
• 35 per cent of children in FDAC cases were returned to mothers who were no longer misusing, against 21 per cent from ordinary care proceedings;
• 58 per cent of FDAC reunification mothers sustained their abstinence over the five-year study, compared to 24 per cent of the comparison families;
• 51 per cent of the FDAC mothers who were reunited with their children at the end of the proceedings experienced no disruption during the follow-up three years, compared to 22 per cent of the others.

Whilst acknowledging that the FDAC is not a panacea, the authors stated that the evidence showed ‘that FDAC is more successful than ordinary services in minimising risk, keeping families together and helping parents to sustain substance misuse recovery’.
The report recommended ‘that FDAC is a helpful model that should be made available more widely and sustained in the longer term.’ Where, Nagalro asks, is the evidence to justify the Government’s rejection of this?

The concept of spending a pound to save spending ten later is well enough known; but seems sadly lost on the present administration.


20 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 Post author

      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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    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I assume you are in the USA? Not familiar with the acronym DCFS.
      In England, if there are immediate child protection concerns I think then the police can do pretty much what they want. A social worker would need their assistance to force entry into a home.

  4. Sam

    Me & my husband have just had our first baby. I’m 37 n he’s 43. We’ve been married for 2 years. Before we met he was an alcoholic and I was into different drugs. He stopped drinking 6 weeks before the wedding, we did smoke heroin together but got down to a very low amount, that was my problem addiction, I did stop everything else. We are both on a methadone program and throughout my pregnancy I was extremely sick, so when I was throwing up my dose, I was using as I was in withdrawal. Drug service told me to just keep going up to stabilize. We were both clean before the baby came only for a fortnight but they made the baby come a month early, he wasn’t ready and they cut him out of me. While I was in hospital having him social services took me to court for an interim care order for my son and he was discharged today into foster care. Me and my husband are still clean and now get 2 hours contact Monday to Friday. We’d do anything for our son. The social worker doesn’t realize that I could have been clean through my pregnancy and then went on a bender once he was born, but we have done what we said and were clean for baby coming, this all seems so far fetched because 6 months down the line, we would have been trying for a baby anyway, we’d already changed our lives. I just fell pregnant a little early. The social worker is only 24 and has no children and no life experience whatsoever. I really think we should have been given a chance before they took such drastic measures. Me and my husband are functioning adults, he is a hairdresser of 26 years. I just feel like we’ve been treated very unfairly. I intend to write to the MP and the local council. PLEASE, do you have any advice for us?

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The best advice I can give is for you to speak to your lawyers, if you don’t have a lawyer, get one urgently. As you are in court for care proceedings, you get non means, non merits tested legal aid. I am afraid it does sound like you are minimising your drug use and its impact on your baby. It won’t help to write to your MP or the local council if you are in care proceedings. They can’t interfere with decisions made by the court; you absolutely have to engage in the court process.

  5. Samantha

    Iv been clean since June this year (4months) iv gave 5clean urines, supervised every week until my worker said due to cover I cant see her!!
    This is the longest iv been clean in a long time.
    My sons been in & out my mums care for the last 2yrs.
    Iv txted Socialworkers & im getting no help.
    I love my son so much. He’s 10yrs old & i miss him so much everyday. I dont no wt to do to start getting things moving along. Such as having him for an overnight 1day per week to start with.
    I take him into town just about every weekend for lunch & I feel im doing my part but no1 else is doing anything to help.
    Plz, plz help as this is getting me really down.
    I’m crying thinking about it just now.
    I feel iv got no1 to help.
    Thanks for taking time to read.
    Lv Samantha xx

  6. Samantha

    plz, plz help. All my mum is worried about is her kinship money & his benefit money!!
    If she never had that then she would want him bk to his mum sooner.
    She’s not doing the best for him whereas I no i would do everything I possibly could..
    Plz advise me on what to do.
    Thank-you so much.
    Lv Samantha xx ?

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Sorry Samantha, it won’t be possible for any one to advise you what to do over the internet, other than to get some legal advice if you can. You may be able to challenge any existing order about your son but you would need to prove that your circumstances have changed for the better and it would be in his best interests to return to your care.

    2. Carrie

      I’m.in same situation u do everything they ask a d they still font tell u roughly when u may get child back. I said I’m doing everything u ask can’t I even have one over night stay. I asked three weeks ago still waiting for an answer. I can feel myself sliding and um worried I’m going to mess up after all my hard work and that’s what they want. I can’t see a light any hope of anything to look forward to. How are they aloud to treat people this way and leave us hanging not knowing what’s going on . They do r care to them we are scrum low lives addicts what we say doesn’t matter they don’t e an listen have u noticed it

  7. Jayne Stafford

    I have recently relapsed after moving away and starting afresh in anither county, i have been using heroin for 30+ years and in this time have been under a meth script!
    I also have an 11yr ild son who is my world and has never been under social services care!!!
    I relapsed recently and ended uo in A&E w8rh am adcess! And as is the process if safeguarding was contacted by social services,
    Later that week a lady social worker contacted me and we decussed the incident in detail after she told me she felt that no further action was needed! And the case was closed!!!! Then today she ramg me at work , speaking in a very sharp toneshe tild me that after speaking to my key worker that the case would be now re-opened because of the pictue painted by my key worker whim i have met once!!! This has totally shocked me because i thought that , the whole idea of a suppirt worker was to support? Not to make things worse!!! I work fulltime amd my son is well cared for! Could you please offer some advice or feedback on this issue?
    As I am aloss about how i have been treated!

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The key worker will have an obligation to share information if he/she is worried. They will have to err on the side of caution if a child is involved. Hopefully the focus will be more on supporting you than taking any punitive action, but I can appreciate this is a shock and I don’t see how speaking to you in sharp tones is going to help anything. I think the best thing you can do is engage with them, take any concerns seriously but remind them of the positives in your situation.

  8. vicky gillott


    Myself and my partner as been using heroin and we have joined a recovery program to get clean. I have 2 children 8 and 10 years old.
    We have kept using heroin a secret – no one knows, no family and no friends Know. Only 4 weeks ago we went to recovery steps to seek help for our addiction. We was prescribed methadone and was told our dose would increase weekly from 40ml. We was told as the dose increased we would stop needing heroin. Yesterday my worker rang me and i said i was still using just one “bag” £10 worth of heroin and that i think that i would be stable when my methadone is increased to 80ml , she agreed and today i was prescribed 80ml and yes its worked i dont feel the need to use. BUt then out of the blue my worker rang me and said she had reported me and my husband to social services because we are using heroin ontop of methadone and our children are present in our home. I was shocked as my husbands support worker visited our home and said he had no concerns what so ever, we have a seperate annex leading from the house where we have a gym and that is the place we use herion – not in the house and definatley not round our children. I said yes we was using ontop of methadone – we had to and was advised to use by the prescribing nurse , we had to do this to find our level. We have found our level so now we will not have to use just take the methadone. I have never been involved with social services so do not know what happens, obviously i am at my wits end – thinking these people are coming to take my children. My children never miss a day of school and they are cared for in every way. This last few weeks my children have been staying with my parents as i have long covid, i have been in and out of hospital above 10 times. But i have still had time with my children. I use a chemist approx 7 miles away to get my methadone as i do not want anyone i know seeing me collect methadone. That is how secret i have kept this, Can someone explain what will happen now with my children, will social services inform their school and my family but most of all what will happen with my children can they remove them from my home and care

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      There is sometimes a lack of understanding between social workers and the medical profession about what is safe to use. It’s really important that you make sure the social workers have access to the information from the doctors/nurse that what you have done is in line with their recommendations and necessary for your recovery. What the social workers will be worried about is chaotic/escalating drug use which will inevitably impact your parenting. But a controlled therapy regime, aiming for reduction or abstinence is very different and unlikely to impact your parenting. The social workers I think are reasonably concerned if you are using heroin on top of prescribed methadone – you presumably do not know the quality of the heroin that you buy and you will be buying it from criminals. All these things are risky. Clear channels of information are needed and a focus on what is actually happening for the children.


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