FDAC – Family Drug Alcohol Court

What it is

The Family Drug Alcohol Court (FDAC) started out as a 3 year trial by District Judge Nicholas Crichton in 2008. Following its success it became established in 2012 and has since been rolled out throughout the country. There are currently 13 FDACs around the UK: London (Camden, Islington. Lambeth and Southwark). Gloucestershire, Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Brighton and Hove, Coventry, Southampton, South West Peninsula, Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees, Calderdale and Kent and Medway.

FDAC is an evidence-based model. It works with parents who suffer from drug and alcohol misuse and other problems that prevents them from successfully parenting their children safely such as domestic abuse and mental health problems. The FDAC team consists of a Judge and a specialist multi-disciplinary team with an expert in social work, substance misuse treatment, mental health and domestic violence.

How it works

Where care proceedings are issued on a case involving substance misuse, the Local Authority can choose whether to refer the case to FDAC (capacity permitting). At the first hearing the parents are then offered the choice of whether to go down the FDAC route or continue with ordinary care proceedings. If the parents agree to try FDAC then the case is adjourned to allow time for the FDAC team to assess the parents and devise a ‘trial for change’ programme, which has been agreed between the local authority, the guardian, the parents, adult treatment workers and any other relevant professionals, for the courts ratification at the next hearing.

The ‘trial for change’ is an individualised programme combining assessment, treatment and support. It is designed to give the parents the best possible chance to solve their problems within a timescale that is compatible with their child/rens needs.
All parents are allocated a FDAC keyworker and attend weekly key work sessions, including regular drug and alcohol testing to ensure they stick on the path to success.
In addition to the usual hearings that would be expected in a normal care proceedings case, FDAC parents attend court fortnightly to meet with the Judge to review their progress and set goals. These are called ‘non-lawyer reviews’ and are attended by the parents, the FDAC key worker, the child’s allocated social worker and the children’s guardian.
The FDAC team aims to minimise the often traumatic experience of court proceedings. If, unfortunately, the parents are unsuccessful in retaining the care of their children, then the FDAC team will still encourage and support the parents to work towards their own recovery.

It has been found that at the end of proceedings1 :
• A higher proportion of FDAC than comparison mothers had ceased to misuse by the end of the proceedings (46% v 30%)
• A higher proportion of FDAC than comparison families were reunited or continued to live together (37% v 25%)


1 Professor Judith Harwin, Dr Bachar Alrouh, Mary Ryan, Tricia McQuarrie, Lily Golding, Professor Karen Broadhurst, Jo Tunnard, and Dr Stephen Swift, After FDAC: outcomes 5 years later. Final Report (December 2016), Lancaster University.


Article by Karlyne Oakes, paralegal to Dawn Wilson, Emma Hall and Louise Creighton