As it’s revealed that the government is shutting down The Family Drug And Alcohol Court(FDAC) – the UK’s most successful family court – Researching Reform decided to make a Freedom Of Information request, to find out which ministers might benefit from the sudden, though not completely unexpected, move.
FDAC is the only family court to date that has a proven, long term track record of helping parents kick addiction habits. FDAC is also more effective than local authority driven, care proceedings.
It is also the only court in England which actively prevents children from entering the care system. And it repeatedly saves the government money. A lot of money. Because the unit helps more children return safely to their families, £17,000 less per case is spent on adoption and fostering.
What seems at first glance like irrational government decision making, becomes clearer if we look at the patterns from a profit-driven perspective. FDAC is in direct competition with government ministers and child protection professionals, who outnumber FDAC supporters and team members, invested in a system which farms children and processes them through care homes and fostering agencies for cash.
Research published in 2015 by Corporate Watch revealed that eight commercial fostering agencies made around £41m profit between them, from providing foster placements to local authorities. An expose by ITV in December of last year confirmed the worst – whilst children in care are given the bare minimum under these kinds of arrangements, private companies are siphoning off the majority of the funds. Many of these agencies are being run by social workers and other child welfare professionals already operating inside the system. It’s a growing financial opportunity inside a broken and bankrupt system, which could still produce dividends if it fails – some companies and stakeholders make even larger profits if the care homes implode.
At the end of last year, the Education Committee produced a report, in which it confirmed that a vast number of foster placements were made for financial reasons rather than best interest ones. FDAC stands on its own, as an exception to the rule. It is saving the government money, and keeping children at home.
And that’s no good if you’re trying to make money out of placing children in adoption and foster placements. Recent figures by the Local Government Authority tell us that at least six classrooms worth of children are placed on child protection plans every day. If FDAC were rolled out around the country, that would change.
FDAC’s success, and its ethos, sit in stark contrast to the failings, and motivations, of local authorities, who are increasingly being called out for routinely breaking the law, and wrongfully removing children from their parents. In a letter to The Guardian, Legal Action For Women criticised the government for attempting to cash in on adoption and fostering incentives, by allowing its councils to unjustly remove children from their parents.
But who has financial interests in these care homes and fostering agencies? Our Freedom Of Information request tries to answer that question. Split up into five requests – we had to write to each relevant cabinet department separately for this information – this is what we asked:
Each request we made asked the same question of each department, and they can be accessed below:
Researching Reform had the privilege of being there at the start of FDAC, and we have followed its journey to the present. Judge Crichton, the family court judge who pioneered the unit in the UK, after exporting it from America where he had seen it in practice, is something of a renegade. Unwilling to play by the rules for the sake of judicial promotion, Crichton set out to make a difference for children and families. We watched his frustration in meetings and in private, over the government’s bizarre reluctance to fund a system which was actually working. It’s a frustration we still share.
In a world where cash comes before kids, we desperately need an army of people like Judge Crichton and FDAC professionals, to join together and tip the balance. The closure of FDAC isn’t just about social care, it’s about all of us.