Family Drug and Alcohol Court – Service Engagement Evaluation

A Randomised Controlled Trial of an intervention designed to improve parental engagement with the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) services and process.


Randomised controlled trial / In progress

Estimated completion

November 2022

Focus areas

Professionals, Children & families

Delivered by

Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI)

Evaluated by

Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI) and Bryson Purdon Social Research (BPSR)

Key Figures

Local authorities 10
Sample size 350 Families


The Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI) in partnership with Bryson Purdon Social Research (BPSR) are conducting a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) to assess the impact of a set of parent-to-parent letters on families’ engagement with the FDAC service and process as a whole.

The intervention:

In early 2020 the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) was commissioned to develop a light-touch and low-cost intervention that looks to increase families’ engagement with the FDAC process as a whole, with the aim of further improving outcomes for children and families who take part in these care proceedings.

The BIT conducted a literature review to look at the evidence on behaviourally-informed interventions that had potential applications for FDAC, and conducted qualitative field work within FDAC sites to explore how behavioural insights could be applied to this project. Several solutions were generated and brought to a workshop attended by representatives from most of the FDAC sites. The workshop participants voted on the intervention that they found the most impactful and feasible: a programme of parent-to-parent letters was selected by sites as the most promising.

The chosen intervention consists of three letters written for parents starting their FDAC journey, to be provided at three time-points throughout their involvement in the process. Each one emphasises a different key message, and reflects the experiences of the individual parents who co-developed the letter, who were all FDAC graduates themselves.

The impact evaluation:

CEI and BPSR are conducting a cluster RCT, stratified by FDAC site, with the family as the unit of randomisation.

The primary aim of the evaluation is to assess whether receiving the letters throughout the FDAC process impacts on:

  1. parents’ attendance at FDAC meetings, as measured by the percentage of scheduled meetings or sessions a parent attends during the FDAC process
  2. parents’ level of engagement with the FDAC process, as measured by a fortnightly practitioner-completed question.

The secondary research questions relate to broader outcomes for families in the FDAC process including the child(ren)’s placement at the end of proceedings and parental drug and alcohol misuse cessation.

The implementation and process evaluation:

The implementation and process evaluation will look to address the following research questions:

  1. What is involved in using the letters in FDAC work?
  2. Are the letters used as intended?
  3. What is the mechanism by which the letters impact on engagement, or why do they not?
  4. Is the use of the letters sustainable?

The evaluation team will conduct interviews with parents and FDAC workers, and the qualitative fieldwork will be undertaken in three waves:

Wave 1: one interview with a lead FDAC worker at each participating site during the early implementation phase

Wave 2: this stage will focus on four FDAC sites and will include approximately 20 interviews with FDAC staff and 20 interviews with parents receiving the letters.

Wave 3: one interview with a lead FDAC worker from each participating site towards the end of the trial to explore the use and sustainability of the letters, and perceived impacts on FDAC practice and parental engagement.

The evaluation will also include a simple assessment of the costs associated with the intervention.


The intervention will be rolled out in participating sites starting the first week of January 2021 until the end of June 2022. A final report will be published in late 2022.

Note: This evaluation is part of the Department for Education’s Supporting Families: Investing in Practice programme.