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Family Drug & Alcohol Court (FDAC) National Unit

Independent Evaluation

Family lounge scene
Researchers: Ellie Roberts, Jane Kerr
Published: January 2017

An independent evaluation of the National Unit set up to support the roll-out of FDACs across the country.


Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC) aim to improve outcomes for children and families by providing an alternative way of working with parents involved in care proceedings who are experiencing substance misuse. 

We were commissioned by the Department for Education to evaluate the work of the FDAC National Unit which has been set up to support the roll-out of FDAC across the country. 

The evaluation was funded through the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme.

You can download the full report from DfE's website or read a summary of the findings below.


The  evaluation looked at the perceived contribution of the National Unit to three key outcomes:

Increasing the successful set-up of FDACs

  • The National Unit was perceived to have played a critical role in the set-up of new FDACs.  There was agreement that the expertise of the National Unit had helped to ensure that new FDACs were more successful, less resource intensive, and quicker to set up and deliver than they might have been otherwise.

Increasing the number of FDACs that are sustainable

  • The National Unit was seen as having an important ongoing role in relation to sustainability.  It helped to strengthen the evidence base on the relative costs and benefits of FDAC, worked with sites to formulate a compelling business case and worked to keep problem-solving courts on the political agenda.

Improving data collection and evidence on the FDAC model 

  • Participants believed the continued involvement of the National Unit was critical to any future evaluation of the FDAC model, as the Unit helped to ensure a systematic approach to data collection through producing resources, such as data collection tools, information, support and guidance.
  • The flexible and collaborative working style of the National Unit and the nature, level and timeliness of support offered were perceived to contribute to the National Unit’s success in achieving outcomes. 
  • As the National Unit had only been in operation for one year at the time of conducting the research it was not possible to draw conclusions about long-term impacts. However, participants felt there was the potential for success because they were convinced of the rationale for FDAC, had confidence in the National Unit and believed there were early indications of progress towards achieving long-term outcomes.


The evaluation aimed to gather an in-depth understanding of the work and contribution of the National Unit from the perspective of key stakeholders.

The evaluation was underpinned by a theory of change and involved 32 in-depth qualitative interviews with individuals from new FDAC sites and 13 interviews with other stakeholders including members of the National Unit, individuals from sites who launched their FDAC before the National Unit was established and key government stakeholders.