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Family Group Conferences

Family Group Conferences are an approach to planning and decision making which use the skill and experience of the wider family as well as professionals.


1. Overview

1.1 Family Group Conferences are an approach to planning and decision making which use the skill and experience of the wider family as well as professionals. The definition of who is in the family should come from the family itself and can include the extended family, friends and neighbours.

1.2 Family Group Conferences may be appropriate in a number of contexts where there is a plan or decision to be made. They do not replace or remove the need for Child Protection Conferences, which should always be held when the relevant criteria are met. Family Group Conferences are a process, not just a one-off meeting, through which family members, including those in the wider family, are enabled to meet together to find solutions to difficulties they are experiencing.

1.3 Family Group Conferences may be valuable, for example in the following circumstances.

  • Children in need, in a range of circumstances were a plan is required for the child’s future welfare.
  • Where section 47 enquiries do not substantiate concerns about significant harm but where support and services are required.
  • Where section 47 enquiries progress to a child protection conference, the conference may agree that a Family Group Conference is an appropriate vehicle for the core group to use to develop the outline child protection plan into a fully worked-up plan.

1.4 Family Group Conferences are an approach to planning and decision making which use the skill and experience of the wider family as well as professionals. The definition of who is in the family should come from the family itself and can include the extended family, friends and neighbours.

1.5 When planning a Family Group Conference it is essential to ensure that all parties are provided with clear and accurate information. The family is the primary planning group in the process. Family members need to be able to understand what the issues are from the perspective of the professionals. The family and involved professionals should be clear about:

  • The professional findings from any Core Assessment of the child and family.
  • The family’s understanding about their current situation.
  • What decisions are required.
  • The family’s scope for decision-making, and whether there are any issues/decisions which are not negotiable.
  • What resources are, or might be, available to implement any plan.

1.6 Within this framework, agencies and professionals should agree to support the plan if it does not place the child at risk of harm and if the resources requested can be provided.

1.7 When agreement has been obtained to go ahead with a Family Group Conference, arrangements are to be made by children’s social care.

1.8 The Coordinator of the Family Group Conference will visit and prepare all of those invited from the family and friends. The time and venue must be suitable to the family and can result in family group meetings being held outside of normal office hours.

1.9 The coordinator is responsible for ensuring that, following a Family Group Conference involved professionals are speedily informed of the family’s plan, have an opportunity to respond to the plan and are informed of the arrangements for any review of the plan.

1.10 When a Family Group Conference is held in respect of a child who is subject to a Child Protection Plan, the outcome of the Family Group Conference should be communicated to the Chair of the Child Protection Conference.

2. Complaints from service users

2.1 If parents/carers disagree with decisions made or any other part of the process, the Chair must discuss their concerns with them and explain their right to challenge and the process for this. The complaint process should be available in writing for service users as part of the arrangements for holding Family Group Conferences.