Having only done a few FDAC cases in Kent so far, it may be too soon to tell, however I have to say that my experience of the process and that of my clients was extremely positive.
For a guide to FDAC, how and why it was set up and what it does, you cannot do better than read the excellent article by my colleague Michael Batt published on our Website earlier this year.
I recently had the great pleasure of representing the first person in Kent to graduate from the FDAC court. We had a graduation ceremony, the FDAC team baked cakes, there were photos with the Judge, and it was a wonderful thing to see. A long way from the sorrow encountered so frequently in the traditional care proceedings courts.
I found the FDAC team to be so supportive and encouraging. They really just wanted to help, if at all possible. Of course they will not always be able to help and there will not always be a successful outcome, but you really get the impression from the way they work with your client that they have really given them a chance and provided the support to do what they need to do. This makes such a difference, as there is nothing worse or more discouraging for parents than feeling they have been written off before the proceedings have commenced, which unfortunately is so often the case in the traditional proceedings. Giving the parents the sense that they have been given a fair chance makes all of the difference.
The latest research recently published by Lancaster University has vindicated the high expectations from the Pilots that preceded them (35% success rate). Lancaster conducted two research studies. One compared the outcomes for up to five years after the end of care proceedings for families that went through the FDAC process. The second explored how the FDAC judges used the time in court to motivate and encourage the FDAC parents to change their lifestyles.
The first study’s findings are very encouraging and in line with previous research in 2014 (which led to the expansion of the Scheme of the pilots). They are also bases on a larger number of FDAC cases than the 2014 research. The findings are:
- Substance misuse cessation by Mothers at the end of FDAC proceedings was higher than in traditional care proceedings: 46% v 30%.
- The proportion of children and Mothers re-united or still living together at the end of proceedings was higher in FDAC: 35% v 25%.
- Continued substance misuse cessation over a 5-year follow-up period was 58% v 24% (which I think is quite stunning).
- Continued family reunification over a 3 year follow-up period was more likely in FDAC cases: 51% v 22%.
So, as we can see, excellent evidence of the efficacy of FDAC. As a result of this, given the strength of this evidence, the recommendation of the research team was that the FDAC model should be made available more widely.
They also recommended as a result that there is now exploration of which other types of cases might benefit from the same problem-solving approach to care proceedings. A very interesting prospect to end on!