Days after it emerged that a national board set up to improve the performance of the family justice system and chaired by government ministers had not met for 17 months, a national unit set up only three years ago to support a pioneering problem-solving court service for families is shutting down due to lack of government support.
Sir James Munby, outgoing president of the family division, said the ‘profoundly disturbing news’ that FDAC (family drug and alcohol court) National Unit will close in September demonstrates a ‘failure of imagination, of vision and of commitment’ by national and local government.
The specialist court, which was pioneered in London by district judge Nicholas Crichton in 2008, aims to tackle parental substance misuse when it is a key element in local authority decisions to bring care proceedings. Munby described it as ‘one of the most important developments in family justice in the last 40 years’.
The service was originally jointly paid for by the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health, but has faced repeated funding uncertainties.
The national unit has helped to establish a dozen courts covering 15 local authorities. Munby said today that the unit has had to withdraw its application for cash from the government’s £80m Life Chances Fund because of a lack of support from local authorities and will close in September ‘because of the lack of continuing funding from central government’.
Munby said the news was ‘grim’, especially at a time when he and his successor, Sir Andrew McFarlane, have stressed that the care system is in crisis.
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