Firm hopes to save threatened Family Drug and Alcohol Court National Unit
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Marc Bloomfield
A solicitors’ firm raising cash to save a pioneering family courts project has told Legal Action it can save the service if the government will match funding of £125,000 that has been pledged by donors.
The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) National Unit supports 10 FDACs working in 15 courts across 23 local authority areas. A funding crisis means it is under threat of closure at the end of September.
The FDAC model co-ordinates the work of social workers and other professionals in assisting parents with problems related to drug and alcohol addiction. Through regular communication between the agencies and the judge involved with a case, the FDACs have been effective in keeping children with their parents rather than them entering the care system on a long-term basis.
The Manchester- and London-based firm Hall Brown has been raising money to try to save the service. James Brown, a founding partner at the firm, told Legal Action: ‘We only undertake private family law work, we don’t do legal aid or care work, but we do know the value that FDAC adds with its problem-solving approach to some of the most difficult cases the courts face.’ When it heard about the funding crisis at the unit, his firm launched an appeal to, among others, the top 50 private family law firms to save the service.
So far, Hall Brown has received pledges of £100,000 over the next three years to support the work of the unit. One donor has agreed to make the amount up to £125,000 if the government matches this cash to reach the £250,000 needed each year to run the service.
Brown says he is ‘disappointed with the response from the family law community’: some are taking the view that they should ‘not let the government off the hook’, while other firms have already committed to other charity donations. Hall Brown has not approached legal aid firms for help as it recognises ‘such firms make little or no profit’.
Hall Brown is working with parliamentarians to persuade the government to come up with the extra cash. ‘We are not letting go of this,’ Brown said, as he believes the unit plays a vital role in supporting the courts and persuading local authorities to establish FDACs locally. According to him, the family courts need to ‘head away from the binary right or wrong system’ on the care arrangements for children. He is of the opinion that the FDAC approach of getting the parties to ‘sit down in the round and try and fix it’ is deserving of government support as it works for families and ultimately makes savings to the public purse.

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