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Last Updated: Monday, 26 November 2007, 14:21 GMT
UK's first drug and alcohol court
Man drinking lager
Drug and alcohol courts are widely used in the US
Three London councils have combined to set up the UK's first Family Drug and Alcohol Court.

The court, which opens in January, has been set up by Westminster, Islington and Camden councils and will sit at the Inner London Family Proceedings Court.

Based on a US model, the court will provide support and assessment to families who are affected by drug and alcohol abuse.

The US model has enabled more children in care to return home.

If she was not making enough progress however, the court could ensure she was given further help
Ann Turner, Camden Children Schools and Families

Judge Nick Crichton added that the model is "worth trying" in the UK.

He 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."

The idea for the Family and Drug Alcohol Court came after the three councils realised that two thirds of all care proceedings were initiated by parental substance abuse.

'Success rate'

Anne Turner, assistant director, Camden Children Schools and Families, said: "The court is a way of giving families more structured support.

"They receive help from therapists, mentors, who are parents but also former substance users who have been through similar experiences as them and have successfully managed to keep their children, as well as specialist clinical staff."

She said the court will help parents make the choice about whether they are ready to look after their children who have been taken into care, or not.

Ms Turner added: "For example, let's say we had a young mother who had a child or children that were taken into care. The court could decide that she is given support to enable her to keep the child or children if it was felt she was able to.

"If she was not making enough progress however, the court could ensure she was given further help and if she really couldn't make it, it would make sure the children are looked after in the best way possible."

In the US, specialist drug and alcohol courts have a high success rate of keeping children with their parents after they have received the relevant support.



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