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Law firm pledges funds in effort to save FDAC National Unit

Call for other firms to donate

A leading family law firm has been involved in discussions in an effort to save the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) National Unit.

The Unit could close in September because of a lack of funds 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. Only last month, England's most senior family judge, Sir James Munby, suggested that the prospect of closure was "profoundly disturbing".

Hall Brown Managing Partner James Brown and Senior Partner Sam Hall recently met 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. Describing the exchange as "immensely positive", Mr Hall said that Hall Brown had pledged £12,500 in each of the next three years towards the FDAC's annual £250,000 running costs. He called on 19 other family law firms to donate a similar amount.

"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."

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 funding crisis has emerged after the Department for Education stated that no further funding would be made available for the Unit, the body that supports local, existing FDACs and encourages the development of new sites.

The Department 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."

Nagalro expresses its concerns
Meanwhile, Nagalro has expressed concern that, without the National Unit to support, train and promote the ten current FDACs and to maintain consistency, they will simply be left to wither on the vine.

The professional association for Family Court Advisers, Children's Guardians and Independent Social Workers said:

"One by one, cash-strapped local authorities, encouraged by the withdrawal of central government support, will find that funds can be directed elsewhere. Without the co-ordination, training and promotional activities of the National Unit, it is unlikely that new FDACs will be set up. This is a tragedy for the families who are helped by the FDAC, a severe blow to the children and, in the medium to long-term will mean increased costs to the public.

"The astonishing thing about this decision is that it comes without explanation and in the face of consistent research showing the benefits of the FDAC system and the dividends it provides to public finances. Parents who are assisted to come off drugs do not need to commit offences to fund their habit; the costs of prosecuting them and imprisoning them is saved. Some will get jobs and pay taxes. Children who can, at the end of the process, be safely rehabilitated to their parents' care do not cost the taxpayers foster care allowances."

For the full statement from Nagalro, click here.

15/7/18