Family Group Conferencing
What is a Family Group Conference?
A Family Group Conference (FGC) offers family members a chance to get together, to find out about what is happening in the family, and to discuss how to sort out any problems.
Why have a Family Group Conference?
We think that families are able to make better decisions about their children than the professional people, provided that family members have all the necessary information to reach their decisions. Families may also need financial or other assistance to carry out their decisions.
What happens at a Family Group Conference?
A Family Group Conference has three parts:
- Information Giving – The first part of the meeting will be led by a co-ordinator whose job it is to assist the family to gather together at an agreed time and place which suits. The co-ordinator will ensure that the professionals give the family a clear and straightforward account of their concerns, and also what financial and other assistance could be available.
- Private Family Time – When the family is ready they will be left in private, to talk things through together. If they need further information, the co-ordinator will always be on hand to help with this. The family may take some time to discuss the situation and decide on the best solution. There is no need to hurry. We will make the family as comfortable as possible and make sure there are things for the children to do, if necessary. Families themselves may not always agree. If this happens, the co-ordinator will try to help the family come to some agreement.
- Agreeing the Plan – When the family has worked out it’s decisions, the co-ordinator will rejoin you and go over the plan with you. They will ask the family to nominate a MONITOR or GUARDIAN of the Plan, who will liase with the Social Worker to make sure the plan gets put into practice right away. The co-ordinator will take the Plan away with them, type it up and send it out to all family members the next working day or as soon as possible. Unless it is considered that the decisions and plans made by the family will put a child or young person in danger, the plan must be accepted and given the same importance as any other plan. Your Social Worker has a duty to work hard with you to put the plan into action.
What if the child or young person does not agree with the family decision or plan?
Children and young people should be involved as much as possible in their Family Group Conference and their wishes and feelings taken into consideration by the adults. Their age and understanding will play a part in this. Families do usually include the young person or child in making plans, but if there are any real differences of opinion, the family can ask the co-ordinator to help.
What happens if Social Services do not agree with our plan?
Plans need to be realistic. Social Services will only disagree with the plan if they think it will leave a child or children at risk in some way. The Social Worker will need to be specific about the reasons for not accepting the plan. The family might then decide to hold another conference to change the plan, or the co-ordinator may suggest that the Social Worker meet with the family monitor/guardian of the Plan and will offer to facilitate this.
Reviews can be arranged to take place in a number of weeks or months ahead at the request of family members. A review will look at how the plan is working and if it needs to be changed. The family can also have further reviews if necessary.
Who should come to a Family Group Conference?
Who comes to the Family Group Conference will be different for each family. Some families may be worried about certain relatives coming to the conference. We would suggest that the best people to help a child or young person are nearly always their relatives.
Sometimes close family friends can attend as they feel more like family than relatives themselves. Any worries about who should attend can be discussed with your co-ordinator. In any decisions it is the needs and well-being of the child or young person which is of the greatest importance.
What about the cost of coming to a Family Group Conference?
Social Services can assist coming to a Family Group Conference in practical ways such as providing transport or childminding.
If you or any of the children feel that it would be hard to give your views at the Family Group Conference you can ask for the support of an independent person who will be with you for parts or all of the meeting.