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  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?
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.
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.
- 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.
IMPORTANT EDIT RE FUNDING FOR FDAC
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.”
FURTHER EDIT – COMMENT FROM SIR JAMES MUNBY
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.
FURTHER EDIT PRESS RELEASE FROM NAGALRO 13th July 2018
NAGALRO PRESS RELEASE: ‘A GOVERNMENT WHICH KNOWS THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING AND THE VALUE OF NOTHING’
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.