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A day in the life of ... Sophie Kershaw (Co-Director FDAC National Unit)

Mar 19, 2019, 17:50 PM
family law, fdac, family drug alcohol court, social work, local authority
The award-winning Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) is run by Coram and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, a leading London-based provider of mental health care and education.
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Date : Oct 7, 2015, 02:30 AM
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Sophie Kershaw, Co-Director FDAC National Unit

What is your position andwhat you do on a day-to-day basis?

I'm the Co-director ofthe FDAC National Unit. The main aim of the National Unit is to supportthe development of FDACs around the country so I am jointly responsible for thenational leadership and implementation of the FDAC programme. Day to daymy job is very varied, in fact no two days are the same. It includesstrategy and policy development, programme management, clinical leadership anddevelopment, training practitioners, research, site support and development andbusiness planning. So in the last week I have spent 3 days training a newFDAC team and their FDAC judges, which has been really interesting andinspiring. I've also spent time on our new development, Early FDAC,supervised the development team, attended a regional steering group, andplanned the next Network meeting for local authorities interested in developingFDAC.

How long have you been inthis role and what brought you here?

This is a new role sinceApril this year when the National Unit was formed following a successful bid to the Innovation programme at the DfE. Prior to this role I was the ServiceManager of the London FDAC service. I started with the London FDAC whenit was getting going as a pilot in January 2008. My background is as asocial worker, and I had been working in Local Authority Child Protection teamsfor a number of years. I have also spent some time lecturing at Brunel Universityand working in a strategy and development team. Before I qualified as asocial worker I had worked for a few years in the homelessness and substancemisuse field. For me the opportunity to lead on the FDAC pilot broughttogether a chance to join up my interests in child protection, substancemisuse, development work and management. It's been an extraordinaryexperience to date.

What are the people youwork for/with like? Any memorable stories?

Memorable moment - posingfor a team photo on a children's climbing frame for a newspaper articleincluding Judge Crichton, what were we thinking! Hopefully demonstrates ourteam spirit. FDAC has always been about developing and trying new ideas and I'mprivileged to work with bright, creative and thoughtful people, social workers,psychiatrists, nurses, specialists, academics, policy people, lawyers and judges. A real cross section of professions but that's what makes FDAC real partnershipworking.

What is the best andworst part of the day for you?

Worst part is trying tokeep up with the volume of emails, seems as soon as I clear the inbox it’s fullagain! Best part, training the new teams has been great, a real pleasure, suchas when the new FDAC judges and the teams try out their new motivationalinterviewing skills together, it really is changing the culture of the court.

What adjectives best describeyou?

I asked for some helphere from friends and colleagues and they came up with a list: Tenacious,determined, curious, compassionate, authentic, collaborative, valuingdifference, effective, and generous. They were being very kind!

What keeps youmotivated?

People's capacity tolearn and change. Improving lives for vulnerable families. Doingthe job well.

Tea or coffee?

Tea and gallons ofit! Our office kitchen is a constant stream of people making tea. There is an Open house policy on the tea and coffee for all our visitors.

What would you say toanyone thinking of a career in your field?

I am very proud to be asocial worker and anyone considering working in a regional FDAC should jump atthe opportunity. Not only is this pioneering work in the family justice arenabut you will also feel like you are doing real social work. The purposeof FDAC is to give families a real opportunity to parent their children, and asa social worker you will be undertaking intensive work with families to try andsupport that goal, this might include video interaction guidance with parentsand their children, running a group on parenting and feelings, motivationalinterviewing, problem solving at court with the Judge, professionals and thefamily. Working in FDAC really support practitioners to develop their ownskills.

What song do you listento the most?

Tough question, anythingof Stevie Wonder’s, but if I was forced to choose probably "Superstition" or "As".

How do you enjoy yourtime outside of work?

Friends, family, tryingto play tennis every week which mixes exercise with something fun and socialtoo, holidays and time to read and I love going to listen to live music. I've recently started playing golf and I am quite enjoying the new challenge, althoughit’s an extremely frustrating game!

If you could change onething about the family justice system what would it be and why?

In the next few years Iwould like to see less children at risk of abuse and neglect due to theirparent's substance misuse and other problems through greater access to FDACacross the country. And longer term we at the National Unit would like tosee problem solving justice across all care proceedings, not just for familiesin FDAC.

You can follow Sophie Kershaw and the FDAC National Unit on Twitter at @KershawSophie and @FDAC_NU

The FDAC National Unit website is due to launch 7 October at 5pm. It will include news, blog entries and a range of resources about both the FDAC model and the work of the Unit in supporting the growth of new local sites.

Join the conversation #familylawdayinlifeof

As part of this feature we are asking a wide range of people who have links to the court system and family law to respond to the above questions and give us some information about what their role entails. We hope to get a wide cross section of people - to this end, if you would like to contribute please email

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