Hall Brown in Discussions to Save Pioneering Family Court 

Published on 06 July, 2018 | Back to News/Press

One of the country’s leading family law firms has been involved in discussions in an effort to save a pioneering court system designed to help prevent the children of parents addicted to drugs or alcohol from being taken into care.

The co-founders of Hall Brown Family Law have described taking part in talks at the House of Lords in an attempt to safeguard the future of 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 met with both 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 outlined how Hall Brown had pledged £12,500 in each of the next three years towards the FDAC’s annual £250,000 running costs and was calling 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.”

The FDAC uses a team of social workers, psychiatrists, substance misuse specialists and domestic violence experts to create a strategy capable of changing the lives of parents who come before the court.

Families involved are seen by the same judge every two weeks to monitor their progress.

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 cash 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”.

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