Family Group Conferences

1. What is Family Group Conference?

A family group conference is a process led by family members to plan and make decisions for a child who is at risk. Children and young people are normally involved in their own family group conference, although often with support from an advocate. It is a voluntary process and families cannot be forced to have a family group conference.

Families, including extended family members are assisted by an independent family group conference coordinator to prepare for the meeting. At the first part of the meeting, social workers and other professionals set out their concerns and what support could be made available. In the second part of the meeting family members then meet on their own to make a plan for the child. The family should be supported to carry out the plan, unless it is not safe.

Three quarters of local authorities In England and Wales currently run or commission family group conferences for children in their area or are planning to do so. However, only a small minority of councils routinely offer families a family group conference before a young child is taken into care.

2. The Origins of Family Group Conferences and in What Situations are They Used?

The family group conference approach originated in New Zealand. Family group conferences are now used in over 20 countries in the world.

Family Rights Group led the introduction of family group conferences in England and Wales, and runs the National Family Group Conference Network.

Family group conferences can be used in any serious situation where a plan and decision needs to be made about a vulnerable adult or child. In the United Kingdom family group conferences are mainly used in child welfare, particularly when a child is at risk of going into care, although some local areas are using the approach to prevent school exclusions, tackle anti-social behaviour, address youth offending and in planning for vulnerable adults.

3. What is the Evidence the Family Group Conferences Work?

Family group conference are effective in making safe plans for children, enabling many to stay within their family network as an alternative to going into care and are cost effective.

4. How Can I find out Contact Details about My Local Family Group Conference?

Address: Waltham Forest Family Group Conference,
London Borough of Waltham Forest Council

Cicely Julien-Hall, FCG Coordinator
Family Group Conference Service
Quality Assurance
Juniper House,
221 Hoe Street,
E17 9PH

Telephone: 0208 496 2350

Click here to view the Family Rights Group website.

5. Preparation and Process of Family Group Conference

Following a Child and Family Assessment (see Child and Family Assessment Procedure) the responsible social worker will discuss with the child and family what the outcome and recommendations of the Child and Family Assessment are. If the Family Group Conference is deemed relevant in securing the safety and stability of the child(ren) the social worker will liaise with the family and will explain to the family what a family group conference is, its benefits and will seek agreement from the main carer(s) to make contact with/ make a referral to the Family Group Conference Service. A leaflet is available for Families attending a Family Group Conference. (See The Family Group Conference Leaflet).

When a referral is received by the service, the case is allocated to a FGC co-ordinator who will initially liaise with the social worker.

As far as possible and practical, the conference should be arranged at a time and venue to suit the family members' circumstances. This may well mean that the conference is held out of normal working hours, such as in the evening or weekends, and it may also last for a few hours.

The FGC co-ordinator is responsible for meeting with family members, setting up the Family Group Conference, arranging the venue, and ensuring family members can attend. The need for childcare, interpreting and advocacy will be discussed with the family. If an interpreter is required, the FGC Service will liaise with the responsible social worker to ensure an interpreter is secured.

If for any reason a family member cannot attend the conference, the FGC co-ordinator will encourage that person to present their views by other means, such as a letter or telephone link.

The social worker will be attending the Family Group Conference and telling the family about Children's Services' concerns. The social worker will outline possible resources that may be available to support the plan.

The family has private planning time on their own. The FGC co-ordinator and social worker remain on site to be consulted if necessary. When the family have agreed on a plan for the child(ren), the co-ordinator will go through it with them, and help the family to ensure the plan addresses the concerns. If possible, the plan will be formally agreed by the social worker immediately, sometimes it may need to be agreed by a Manager or the Court. If the Plan cannot be agreed on the day, the family should be informed by the social worker when they can expect to hear if it has been agreed.

The FGC co-ordinator will arrange a Review date at the first Family Group Conference with the family and social worker.

The Family Plan will be submitted within ten working days to all family members and professionals for oversight.

The number of Family Group Conference meetings to review progress may vary. The guiding factor will be what is in the best interests of the child(ren) and within the shortest possible timescales to ensure safety and stability of the child(ren) as soon as possible.