Drug and DNA testing lab AlphaBiolabs is to recruit 16 staff and invest £400,000 in new equipment to cater for its increased workload.
The Warrington-based testing company said a surge in drug and alcohol testing for child protection cases during lockdown has led it to add five scientists, four account managers and seven sample collectors to its team to accommodate its growth.
Since lockdown began, the firm reports a rise of 87% in demand for its services for child protection cases involving local authorities, social workers and family law courts.
The firm, which previously provided testing to the Jeremy Kyle show, has added biological safety cabinets, toxicology analysis instrumentation and personal protection equipment (PPE) for laboratory staff and sample collectors.
Director Rachel Davenport said the company is continuing to expand its workforce, with nine more sample collectors and two additional scientists currently being recruited.
The company carries out testing on hair, oral fluid, urine and nail clipping samples for signs of drug and alcohol use.
It is also one of just a few companies operating in the family law sector that supplies the SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring ankle bracelet, dubbed the ‘sobriety tag’.
It is used by councils, the courts and child protection agencies to obtain information about the frequency and pattern of clients’ drinking habits.
Recent figures show the number of people contacting the National Association for Children of Alcoholics during lockdown via its helplines and emails has doubled.
An increasing number have come from children whose parents have started to drink again, leading to youngsters facing abuse and aggression and left feeling frightened and trapped.
Davenport commented: “Our laboratory has remained open throughout lockdown as a result of extensive forward planning, and our agility means we have been able to support the family law sector by rapidly adapting to the changing circumstances.
“We put a lot of time into planning how we would continue to deliver our services while ensuring all safety protocols were followed.
“Urgent family law cases have continued during this period and, as key workers, the professionals involved have done an amazing job in dealing with them and protecting vulnerable children.”