• 06/07/2018

Manchester-based Hall Brown Family Law is calling on other firms to join it in trying to save a pioneering court system designed to help prevent the children of parents addicted to drugs or alcohol from being taken into care

Despite being hailed by ministers and the judiciary as being the central hub of one of the most important developments in family law in recent decades, the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) National Unit is expected to close in September following the decision of the Department for Education not to provide further funding.

Hall Brown Managing Partner James Brown and Senior Partner Sam Hall have pledged £12,500 in each of the next three years towards the National Unit’s £250,000 annual running costs – and are asking legal industry peers to match their contribution.

Mr Brown and Mr Hall held talks this week at the House of Lords with Nicholas Crichton, the retired district judge who helped establish the FDAC in 2008, and the Earl of Listowel, who is one of the system’s most prominent parliamentary supporters, in an effort to advance the initiative.

Only last month, England’s most senior family judge, Sir James Munby, told a Manchester meeting organised by the charity Pause of his concerns at the prospect of the FDAC National Unit closure, describing it as “profoundly disturbing”.

Mr Hall said: “We recognise the tremendously delicate nature of the work undertaken by the FDAC over the course of the last decade and the life-changing results which it has already yielded for many families.

“Having listened in person to the concerns of Mr Crichton and Sir James about the potential consequences of such a service not being available, we decided that it was important to act.

“We do not deal with the kind of cases which FDAC handles, cases which are highly specialised in nature.

“However, we and every one of our legal peers recognises how vital this work is. We are optimistic, therefore, that our proposal will be supported by other firms and the FDAC National Unit can be saved.”

The FDAC uses a team of social workers, psychiatrists, substance misuse specialists and domestic violence experts to create a strategy capable of changing the lives of parents who come before the court.

Families involved are seen by the same judge every two weeks to monitor their progress.

Academic research has found that out of 90 families who had been through the FDAC system, almost half of mothers and one-quarter of fathers had stopped their substance abuse by the end of the process – a far higher success rate than in ordinary care proceedings.

The FDAC’s National Unit is the body which supports local, existing FDACs and encourages the development of new sites.

Until now, the Department for Education has funded the Unit from its inception and has thus been essential to the expansion of the FDAC system from London to nine other localities.

Mr Crichton said he was keen to explore the Hall Brown proposal.

“Children belong in families – hopefully, their birth or extended families. What we have been able to do through the FDAC is increase the chances of that happening despite difficult domestic circumstances.
“I and many others believe that the FDAC has made its mark and fully justifies its continuation.

“Despite analysis showing not only that these courts change lives but save money too by reducing the future sums required to support the kind of families which we see, we find ourselves critically in need of cash.

“I am grateful for Hall Brown’s initiative and hope that it leads to a positive outcome and the saving of a valuable legal and social resource”.

If you are interested in supporting this initiative or  have any further questions please get in touch with Sam Hall or James Brown from Hall Brown at [email protected] or [email protected].