In September 2016, in his 15th View from the President’s Chambers, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, highlighted what he called the looming crisis in the seemingly relentless rise in the number of new care cases. In order to manage this crisis, the President concluded that FDAC, Pause and similar projects are, at present, the best hope, indeed, in truth, the only hope, we have of bringing the system, the ever increasing numbers of care cases, under control.

What is FDAC?

The Family Drug and Alcohol Court is an alternative problem-solving approach to care proceedings where parental substance misuse is a key factor in the decision of the local authority to bring proceedings. It aims to improve outcomes for children by helping parents to change the lifestyle that has put their children at risk of significant harm.

Unlike ordinary care proceedings, parents receive intensive help from a specialist multi-disciplinary team that works closely with the court. The judge plays a problem-solving role and meets regularly with parents in review hearings and seeks to motivate parents to change. Lawyers do not attend these hearings and parents and the judge and parent talk directly to one another. Participation in FDAC is voluntary; if parents do not wish to enter the programme, their case is heard in ordinary care proceedings.

The first FDAC opened in London in 2008 and other FDACs are now up and running in different parts of the country. There are a total of 13 FDAC teams, linked to 16 courts and 21 local authorities. More are under development.

Evaluation of FDAC

The evaluation of FDAC was integrated into the model and so unusually, this specialist court has been independently evaluated since inception in 2008. There are three main strands to the research:

  • Comparing short and longer term outcomes of cases heard in FDAC with similar cases heard in ordinary court
  • Exploring the experiences of stakeholders (parents and professionals)
  • Observing FDAC proceedings to document how the model is delivered

The research team has been following up the same cohort of FDAC and comparison cases since 2008. Click here to read our latest follow up report (December 2016) and the highlights (September 2016).

The team has also been observing the London FDAC up to the present time. In our latest research we visited FDACs that had only recently started, as well as more established ones. Click here to read our latest report (December 2016) and the highlights (September 2016).

All these sources are helping us to document and understand the contribution that FDAC can make to improving parent and child outcomes and achieving better justice.

Our research has informed the work of the Family Justice Modernisation Programme, the DfE, and services provided by local authorities.


Professor Harwin was funded by the Nuffield Foundation to carry out research on FDAC between 2008-2014. She received funding from the DfE Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme for the latest research as part of a grant to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

Our partners

The research evaluation team at Lancaster University is part of a consortium run by the Tavistock Portman NHS Foundation Trust. The consortium was formed in 2015 with funding from the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme to support the roll-out of FDAC. In addition to the Tavistock, partners in the consortium are Coram, the Centre for Justice Innovation,  RyanTunnardBrown and Brunel University London.