A court service in Yorkshire’s biggest city which help parents deal with drug or alcohol addiction so their children are not taken into care is to be expanded after the Government announced £15m in new funding to roll out the scheme across the country.
Extra resources are to be invested in Leeds’ Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC), led by a specially trained judge who works closely with a team of social workers, psychiatrists and substance misuse workers.
Concerns have been rising over drug and alcohol abuse across all sections of society, placing family relations under increasing pressure.
Research published by a cross-party group of academics and campaigners in September last year revealed that middle-class people consume more alcohol and illegal drugs than those living below the poverty line.
Under the FDAC scheme, parents who come before the court in care proceedings have an intervention plan agreed after an early assessment, with the judge reviewing their progress as well as adjudicating on their case.
Research has found children are less likely to be taken permanently into care in cases heard in FDACs, and less likely to experience further neglect and abuse. Parents are also more likely to stop using drugs.
Leeds is one of 13 areas that already runs such a scheme, but the new funding will allow it to support more families. The Government announced today that it was spending £15m over the next year to expand and improve the FDAC scheme and a programme known as Family Group Conferencing in up to 40 new council areas, including Leeds, Sheffield and Rotherham.
In the Family Group Conferencing scheme, children at immediate risk of being taken into care are involved in a conference along with their wider family network, often supported by an advocate from outside the family.
Together, a plan is agreed by all those involved and families agree to meet again to assess how well the plan is going and make the changes necessary to protect children.
Leeds City Council's executive member for children and families, councillor Fiona Venner, said: “In Leeds, we are committed to working with families who are experiencing difficulties to ensure that the appropriate support mechanisms are in place.
"With help from the local family court, we have been operating a Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) in the city since November 2015.
“This additional funding will enable us to continue this vital work and increase the number of families that the service can work with.
"This will help us to keep more families together and deliver on our ambition to make Leeds the best city for children and young people to grow up in.”
Children and Families Minister Kemi Badenoch said: “In Yorkshire there are children entering care because their parents struggle with problems of their own such as drug and alcohol addiction or domestic violence.
“We know that Family Drug and Alcohol Courts and this model of Family Group Conferencing works in keeping families safely together, where this is in the child’s best interests.
“This further investment marks an important step forward in making sure we are providing the right support for those who need it most.
“Our first duty must be to protect and support vulnerable children and by spreading these programmes in Yorkshire and further, we will provide expert support to tackle issues early.”