Evaluation of Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC)

An impact evaluation of Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC), led by NatCen Social Research.


Quasi-experimental evaluation / In progress

Estimated completion

February 2023

Focus areas

Whole system, Professionals, Children & families

Delivered by

Centre for Justice Innovation

Evaluated by

NatCen Social Research

Key Figures

Local authorities 31
Sample size Approx. 430 families

NatCen are conducting an independent evaluation of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) model in England, as part of the Department for Education’s Supporting Families: Investing in Practice programme.

Supporting Families; Investing in Practice

The DfE’s Supporting Families; Investing in Practice programme has seen the expansion and roll-out of promising interventions that came through the DfE innovation programme. The current programme now aims to ensure these interventions are robustly evaluated.

What is FDAC?

FDACs use a ‘problem-solving’ court approach to justice, whereby courts use their authority to help address the complex social issues that bring people before them. FDACs encourage parents to believe recovery and change are possible, along with aiming to provide a realistic understanding of the challenges they face. Specialist, designated judges provide parents with regular supervision and support through fortnightly court reviews. A specialist multidisciplinary team also works closely with the courts and parents to support families to change and overcome their alcohol and drug misuse problems and other difficulties.

Prior evidence suggests that FDAC is a promising intervention for children in families with alcohol or drug misuse. Yet much of the prior evidence about FDAC’s effectiveness comes from the first FDAC site to be set up in England (the London site). The prior evidence may be further strengthened by assessing impact with a stronger counterfactual and with larger sample sizes (to detect smaller effects). Furthermore, these previous evaluations assessed the effectiveness of FDAC before the reforms introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014, which changed how care proceedings are administered. The evaluation will therefore assess the impact of FDAC on outcomes for children and families across FDAC sites and in light of legislative reforms.

FDAC will be rolled out across 14 sites in England: 8 sites will be expanding their existing services and 6 sites are setting up their own new FDACs.

NatCen’s independent evaluation

NatCen’s evaluation primarily aims to assess the impact of FDAC on the likelihood that children are reunified with their parents at the end of care proceedings, relative to ordinary care proceedings. The evaluation will also seek to determine the impact of FDAC, relative to ordinary care proceedings, on: parental drug and/or alcohol misuse, contested final hearings, use of expert witnesses, the placement of the child at the end of care proceedings and in the future.

The evaluation will follow a quasi-experimental design, which plans to use coarsened exact matching (CEM) to compare FDAC participants to a matched counterfactual comparison group.

NatCen will also conduct an implementation and process evaluation. This will focus on a range of dimensions including:

  • Intervention fidelity reach and dosage
  • Quality of delivery
  • Variations in FDAC delivery
  • Participant responsiveness
  • Difference between FDAC and business-as-usual care proceedings

Finally, costs will be estimated based on the delivery costs of the intervention.


FDAC sites will be delivering the model between January 2021 and the end of June 2022.

NatCen will submit a final report for publishing in November 2022.

Trial protocol

Please find here NatCen’s pre-registered trial protocol