£50,000 To Help with Funding Domestic Abuse Expert

Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has become the first PCC in the country to fund Family, Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDACs) which have been proven to be 50% better than any other method of care proceedings at helping parents to shake off addiction and retain care of their children five years on.

Commissioner Holloway has agreed to provide £50,000 of funding and also to pay for a specialist Domestic Abuse Expert to support parents attending the Family Drug and Alcohol Court.

She also provided the lead Judge - Judge Patrick Peruško - with the services of her Chief of Staff to help other key partners across Bedfordshire, such as those in the NHS, Public Health, Mental Health Services and Safeguarding leads of the three local authorities to work together to bring all these parties into partnership to fund and support the unique FDAC process.

Family Drug and Alcohol Courts require a parent with addiction to agree to a formal rehabilitation plan and work very regularly with the Family Court Judge and an FDAC team of specialists over a 26 week period, to address their behaviour and build better relationships with both their children and themselves.

“It’s fair to say that Judge Peruško had me convinced and signing on the dotted line where financial support was required within the first hour of meeting me. What was absolutely obvious was not only that Patrick was full of energy and a real passion for the benefits but, having run the Family Drug and Alcohol Courts in Milton Keynes, he’d seen the enormous benefits for himself,” said PCC Holloway.

“Not only that, but Judge Peruško can produce evidence that this process works to lift parents out of addiction and helps them to re-build family life, keeping children in the home where it is safe to do so, as not one but two universities - Lancaster and Brunel - have evaluated the programme and the results speak for themselves,” said the PCC.

Both university studies found that parents, five years on from graduating from the Family Drug and Alcohol Court, where they worked through their problems with a judge and specialist support workers linked to FDAC, were more likely by half to have controlled their addiction and retained care of their children compared with those who were subject to standard care proceedings.

“It was clear from the findings that parents felt they were being treated as individuals and being supported more than judged and that they built really strong relationships with the judges overseeing the programme and the specialists to whom they have access as a result of going into FDAC,” she said.

The grant funding from the Commissioner is the single biggest financial contribution to the FDAC project in Bedfordshire. In another first, Bedfordshire’s Clinical Commissioning Group has provided the services of a highly experienced psychiatrist to enable the psychiatric screening of parents, via the East London Foundation Trust (ELFT).

FDAC has also made arrangements for consultations with child and adolescent psychologists in support of the mental health of children.

Public Health in Central Bedfordshire, Luton and Bedford have also supplied a funding grant for a Substance Misuse specialist to support the court. They are also providing FDAC Parent Mentors who have experienced similar issues to provide a supportive voice to parents outside those hours usually worked by FDAC and its specialist workers.

All three local authorities’ Directors of Children's Services in Luton, Bedford and Central Bedfordshire are supporting the programme and will refer suitable families to Family Drug and Alcohol Courts.

The charity, The Marks Trust, is also providing office space and room for parent assessments for the new courts and is committed to working with FDAC parents who ‘graduate’ the scheme, to help them gain employment as they rebuild their lives.

"I'm absolutely delighted that so many agencies have come together and seen the benefits that the Family Drug and Alcohol Court can bring to troubled families in Bedfordshire. Children belong in families. That is where they deserve to be. FDAC gives them the best chance to be with their parents by helping parents achieve and maintain abstinence in a problem solving, therapeutic, court process,” said Judge Peruško.

"Bedfordshire Family Drug and Alcohol Court is the first FDAC nationally to secure support from our Police and Crime Commissioner who also recognised the benefits of funding a specialist Domestic Abuse worker to work within the team. That commitment has drawn in other partners to work alongside children's services in Bedford, Luton and Central Bedfordshire. Public Health in all three authorities and Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group are partners. No other FDAC has such a broad base of support. We also have funding from The Marks Trust, a local charity assisting people who have come across difficult times”,  he said.

There will be two Family Drug and Alcohol courts in Bedfordshire; one in Bedford, overseen by Judge Peruško, with Judge Spinks running the court in Luton.

The Bedfordshire Family Drug and Alcohol Court was launched by Judge Perusko, the PCC, FDAC manager Beverley Sorensen and the three local authority Directors of Children's Services, at a presentation for professionals at Bedford Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (17 October),  which was also attended by a number of judges who support the FDAC process. A similar launch event is to take place in Luton later this month. The first hearings are due to start next month in November.

There are 11 FDACs across the country, with the project in Bedfordshire the first to be established in conjunction with other agencies outside of local authority children's social services.


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