Innovative way of tackling problem drug and alcohol use is improving the lives of vulnerable children and young people in Buckinghamshire

Warren Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and HHJ Venables, lead Judge for Buckinghamshire FDAC

A programme used by Buckinghamshire County Council to help parents address their problem drug and alcohol use where it is a concern in children’s welfare is improving the lives of the county’s vulnerable children and young people.

The Buckinghamshire Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) is an alternative and supportive form of care proceedings in children’s social care which is based on a problem solving approach, where specially trained Judges work directly with parents to help them resolve the problems that have brought them to the point of care proceedings.

The Judges meet regularly with parents in the FDAC process, giving them supervision, encouragement and support and working together with them to find ways to tackle and resolve difficulties. A multidisciplinary team comprising of social workers, substance misuse workers, mental health workers, a psychiatrist and others provide support to the families as part of a wrap-around support and intervention package.

There are nine Family Drug and Alcohol Courts in the UK; the Buckinghamshire FDAC is located in Milton Keynes and serves both Buckinghamshire County Council and Milton Keynes Council.

The lead Judge for Buckinghamshire’s Family Drug and Alcohol Court, Her Honour Judge Venables, said: “FDAC provides a very good opportunity for parents whose lives are blighted by drugs or alcohol to change their lifestyles and provide their children with the care they need. Every family has a unique support plan designed to help the parents make the changes needed to parent safely. The drug and alcohol problems which disrupt normal parenting are complex. The FDAC process supports parents as they take personal responsibility for turning around their lives for the benefit of their children.”

Warren Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Our aim in social care is always to do everything we can to help families stay together or to help children return to their families, and for them to live together in a safe and stable environment. FDAC gives families who are struggling with problem drug and alcohol use a real chance to turn things around. There has to be the will from parents to make changes happen but the experiences we have had with families who have gone through the FDAC process show that it can be a very successful way of running care proceedings. Crucially, it works for our families in the longer term meaning they have the best possible chance of overcoming their drug and alcohol problems.”