The Nuffield Foundation has published an interim report on the working of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court, one year on from its inception.
The court, based on a US model, is being piloted at the Wells Street Inner London Family Proceedings Court for three years to the end of December 2010, funded by the DCSF, MoJ and Home Office and three local authortities. The research team was headed by Professor Judith Harwin of Brunel University.
This interim report looked at the experiences of the 37 families who had been through the court (the research team had predicted 60 families). From that sample they found that maternal substance misuse was the trigger to all the care proceedings before the court; that over half the mothers also had suffered mental health problems and domestic abuse and that half of them had criminal convictions (two thirds of the fathers involved had criminal records).
Overall the researchers found that the court operated efficiently and increasingly as a problem solving court, with judges engaging in acivities outside their normal remit, such as solving housing or financial difficulties. This pro-active attitude and the quick assessments of the multi-disciplinary team were valued by the parents who had been involved in the court. However the researchers also found that the numbers coming through the court were lower than expected, as were the numbers using the parent mentor scheme. Further work would need to be done to address these issues.
The summary and the full interim reports are available on the Nuffield Foundation website
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