Camden, Islington and Westminster councils have teamed up to launch the UK's first Family Drug and Alcohol Court, which aims to tackle substance misuse before it splits up families.
The court is based on a successful US model where specialist drug and alcohol courts have enabled more children in care to return home because their parents have engaged with substance misuse services.
The idea for the £1.3m pilot came after research showed that two thirds of all care proceedings initiated by Camden, Islington and Westminster are because of parental substance misuse. The funding has come from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office.
The Family Drug and Alcohol Court will sit at Inner London Family Proceedings Court in Wells Street and run as a pilot for three years from 28 January 2008 covering Camden, Islington and Westminster. The aim of the court is to support families affected by substance misuse so that children can remain or return home. The court will provide intensive assessment, support, interventions such as one-to-ones and group work and coordination of care for families affected by parental drug and/or alcohol misuse. It will also advise the court and link parents to relevant local services.
District Judges Nick Crichton and Kenneth Grant will hold regular court hearing reviews to encourage and motivate parents to engage with services.
Judge Nick Crichton said: "For too many years I have seen children, sometimes the fifth, sixth or seventh from the same family, being taken into care because of parental misuse of alcohol and/or drugs. This is not beneficial for the children [and] is expensive for the taxpayer. Five years ago at a conference in Australia I met judge Len Edwards from California. He spoke of a model of working with parents with these problems now being used extensively in America. It has to be worth trying."