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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Winners of the 2011 RCPsych Psychiatric Team of the Year Award

Family Drug &  Alcohol Court Intervention Team
The Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust


2011 winners – Family Drug & Alcohol Court Intervention Team, The Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation TrustTeam statement:

The Family Drug & Alcohol Court intervention Team helps families when children are put at risk by their parent’s substance misuse.  They have recently been highlighted by the Family Justice Review and the Munro reviews and had a positive evaluation by Brunel University.


The judges said:

We were impressed by the innovative work in an extremely challenging and potentially risky area of work.  They have translated a model developed in the USA well for use in the UK, and applied appropriate governance and audit.  This is a multi-disciplinary team with user and peer mentor input linking well with the judiciary.


Team Summary:

Innovation: Parental substance misuse puts children at risk.  Forrester and Harwin (2006) found parental substance misuse was a significant risk factor in 62% of care proceedings.


Family courts for parents with drug and alcohol problems have been running in the US for about ten years.  However, there is no agreed approach to treatment and our ‘trial for change’ model was developed from scratch.


Because it has been hard to find services that help parents build a better relationship with their children, we have created our own using a novel combination of evidence-based interventions.


Leadership and teamwork: The team has several experienced leaders, but it is teamwork that makes the project effective.  We have a very clear model that helps us to break down a very complex task into manageable steps.  Likewise every member of the team has clear tasks and there is respect for the different perspectives, whether it is  Parent Mentor and Judge or the child and adolescent specialist.


Effective use of resources: An independent evaluation of the service carried out by Professor Harwin of Brunel University has found that compared to usual services, FDAC delivered:


  1. Hard cases with lengthy histories of substance misuse, high rates of domestic violence, mental health problems, offending and experience of  being in care in childhood.
  2. Higher rates of parent-child reunification (39% vs. 21%).
  3. Swifter permanent placement for children not returned (7 weeks).
  4. Less time in foster care for children (at an average cost of £7,875 vs. £12,068).
  5. More parents who stop substance misuse (46% vs 37%).
  6. Less court time required at a third of the cost.
  7. “The parents were overwhelmingly positive in their comments about the team.  They described them in terms such as ‘helpful’, supportive’, life-changing’ and ‘fantastic’.


Want to know more?

If you would like to find out more about Family Drug &  Alcohol Court Intervention Team, or want to contact the team lead, please contact Liz Cowan.