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Family Drug and Alcohol Courts Evaluation

About the study

What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC) has commissioned NatCen to conduct an independent evaluation of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC), a court approach that supports parents in overcoming substance misuse and aims to keep more families together. The research aims to assess the effectiveness of the FDAC process in comparison to standard court proceedings.

Who is carrying out the research?

This research is being carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).

NatCen is the UK’s leading independent social research agency. We’re proud to have been carrying out research on behalf of government, charities and other organisations for over 50 years.

We are a non-profit organisation, completely independent of government departments and political parties. Taking part in our research is voluntary and will not affect your relationship with any other organisation.

What does the evaluation involve?

This research consists of two strands: an impact evaluation, comparing quantitative data about FDACs with business-as-usual data, and an implementation and process evaluation to gather people’s direct views and experiences.

Impact evaluation strand

We will be in touch with courts and Local Authorities from Spring 2021 to collect pseudonymous data. We will be very careful to make sure that individuals are never identified as a result of us using data to evaluate this project. Data collection about FDAC court proceedings will involve a data collection tool for intervention cases. The tool will gather data on:

  • Socio-demographic indicators, such as age, gender and ethnicity;
  • Issues such as substance misuse, domestic abuse and mental health;
  • Children’s history of involvement with children’s services, education and other agencies;
  • Information about criminal cautions and convictions; and
  • Information about how the case went through court and the decisions that the court took.

Local Authority case notes will also be used to gather records of correspondence between FDAC staff and participants.

Similar data is not currently systematically collected for non-FDAC cases. Local Authorities will be asked to provide comparable data from their own case management systems and case notes based on a template developed by NatCen.

Implementation and process evaluation

We will be carrying out individual research interviews with a total of 44 people from 10 case study sites: six FDACs, and four non-FDAC courts. These will involve FDAC and local authority leads, court staff and members of the judiciary, specialists from support services working with FDACs, and parents who have appeared before an FDAC court.

These interviews aim to develop a rounded understanding of how FDACs have been implemented and are working, including how they compare with other (non-FDAC) courts. This part of the research will explore the advantages and disadvantages of particular FDAC models and gather information on barriers and facilitators to successful implementation and delivery. It will also explore how perceived impacts from the FDAC courts compare with business-as-usual care proceedings.

In the interviews with parents, the topics we’d like to discuss are:

  • their understanding of and engagement with FDAC
  • experiences of court proceedings and support offered through FDAC
  • perceptions of change related to skills, competencies and behaviours; relationships with children and managing safety and wellbeing; and
    • views on fairness.

The kinds of things we’d like to talk to staff and stakeholders working in or with FDAC and non-FDAC sites include their views on:

  • their court’s approach to these kinds of care proceedings;
  • (if applicable) views and experiences of implementing FDAC, including facilitators and barriers to implementation and delivery;
  • views on effectiveness, including in relation to judicial oversight and partnership working;
  • the perceived impact of the approach on families, the courts, practitioners and the wider criminal justice system.

Participation in the research is voluntary and confidential. It will not affect individual or organisational relationship with WWCSC or any other organisation.

Each interview will take up to 60 minutes and will be scheduled at a convenient time for each participant. They can take place online, by phone, or, if appropriate, face-to-face. Parents will be offered a £30 thank you payment as recognition for their time.

Please note that it may not be possible to include all individuals that express an interest in taking part in the evaluation.

What will happen to any information I give?

You can find out more about how we will process the data for this research in our privacy notices:

 

Data from both strands of the evaluation will be systematically analysed to develop a rounded understanding of how FDACs have been implemented, how they are working, and any impacts of FDAC on child and parent outcomes. The research findings will be brought together into a report for What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC), which will be made publicly available on the WWCSC website. The report is due to be published in late 2022. It will not include any identifiable data about individuals, courts, or partner organisations.

The report will inform the Department for Education, Local Authorities, and FDAC sites about the effectiveness of the intervention. The findings could be used to inform future decisions about roll-out of the FDAC programme.