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2.3 Family Group Conferences

This is a new chapter, introduced into the manual in May 2013.


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Anti-Oppressive Practice
3. Anti-Discriminatory Statement
4. Legislative Framework for Family Group Conferencing
5. Key Principles of Family Group Conferences
6. Referral Criteria
7. Roles and Responsibilities
  7.1 Role of the Family
  7.2 Role of the FGC Facilitator
  7.3 Role of the FGC Coordinator
  7.4 Role of the Social Worker
  7.5 Responsibilities of the Team Manager
8. Legal Issues for Family Group Conferences
  8.1 Disclosure
  8.2 Consent to hold a Family Group Conference
  8.3 Guardians / Solicitors attendance at Family Group Conferences
9. Consultations
10. Procedure
  10.1 Referral
  10.2 Bottom Line Meeting Calderdale Council Family Group Conference
  10.3 Meeting Preparation
11. The Family Group Conference
  11.1 Stage 1: Information Giving
  11.2 Stage 2: Private Family Time
  11.3 Stage 3: Agreeing the Plan
  11.4 Documenting the FGC Plan
  11.5 Reviews
  11.6 Evaluations
  11.7 Closure
12. Recording
13. Use of Family Group Conferences in Specific Circumstances
  13.1 Children in Need
  13.2 Rehabilitation
  13.3 Exploring Placement with Family and Friends / Connected Persons: The Wider Context
  13.4 Develop Identity and Belonging
14. Permanency Planning
15. Use of a FGC for Children on the Child Protection Plan
16. Use of a Family Group Conference for Children Subject to Legal Proceedings


1. Introduction

Family Group Conferencing (FGC) is a process by which family groups make informed and responsible decisions, recommendations and plans with regard to children and young people. This enables families to work in partnership with professional services to secure positive outcomes for children and young people. The FGC service define family as referring to birth parents, relatives and significant others i.e. friends, neighbours, other significant members of community who are involved with family. This definition of family is used throughout this document. The Family Group Conference aims to:

  • Ensure that the child or young person will live in a safe situation and be allowed to develop as an individual;
  • Ensure that solutions to current problems are developed within the family by family members who have the knowledge and expertise to inform the plans;
  • Encourage children and young people to participate in the decision making process.

Family Group Conferencing is used in Children’s Social Care in Calderdale to develop plans to assist in the following circumstances:

  • Early Intervention / Prevention: family provides support to the parents, children and young people to enable them to reside safely in their birth parents care;
  • Rehabilitation: family provides support to the parents, children and young people to enable them to safely return to their birth parents care;
  • Family and friends care: the family are asked to identify a relative or significant other to take on the care of a child or young person for a short period of time;
  • Permanent care arrangements: the family are asked to identify a relative or significant other to take on the care of a child permanently. If this is not possible, the family are centrally involved in planning for the child’s permanent placement outside of the family, i.e. adoption;
  • Stabilise placement: families are involved in conferences with carers to develop plans around how to best support the child’s placement outside the family.

Family Group Conferencing is a distinct decision making body in which permanent decisions are made for children and young people’s future care. Calderdale Children’s Social Care has a commitment to implement all approved family plans that have met the bottom lines established prior to the meeting.


2. Anti-Oppressive Practice

The Family Group Conference Service is committed to Calderdale MBC County Council’s Equal Opportunities Policy, and all Facilitators adopt anti-oppressive practice in all aspects of work with children, families and other professionals. This involves paying particular attention to the needs of groups that may experience discrimination including people with disabilities, black people, people from other ethnic minorities, people with learning difficulties, women, those discriminated against on the basis of sexuality and those who are economically disadvantaged.

At a family meeting, the Family Group Conference process acknowledges the cultures of the family, and aims to manage differences within these cultures respectfully. The Family Group Conference is always held in the majority language and interpreters will be employed if necessary. Literature will also be translated into the language of the family. Venues are chosen by families in order for them to be culturally appropriate and accessible.


3. Anti-Discriminatory Statement

The Family Group Conference is committed to integrating and promoting anti-discriminatory practice and equality of opportunity. This means that we believe all children have the right to be safe, to be respected and able to access opportunities to enable them to develop their full potential and enjoy their childhood. We are committed to working in partnership with children and families and seek to maintain a child-focused, culturally appropriate approach in all our activities.


4. Legislative Framework for Family Group Conferencing

Children and young people have a right to be consulted when decisions are being made about their lives.

Under UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 (Articles 12 and 13):

“Children and young people have a right to express their views and have those taken into account when decisions are being made”. “They have a right to express these views in a form that they feel comfortable with”.

Under The Children Act, 1989:

  1. Before they are accommodated (s.20 (6)) and must consent to this (s.20 (11));
  2. Before any decision is made before being looked after or during - (s.22 (4));
  3. Comment on any contact that they would like with family, friends and others with PR while being looked after (s.34).

By taking into account their racial origin, culture, religion and linguistic background while being looked after (s.22 (5) (c)), children and young people should be brought up wherever possible, by their own family (s.17 (1)) or that’s not possible:

  • With relatives or friends (s.23 (6));
  • Immediate placement should be with family or friends (Reg.24);
  • Young people can be fostered by extended family members (Reg.27 (6) Statutory Instruments 2002) under private arrangements (Regulation, 1991);
  • With those with under Special Guardianship Orders (Adoption and Children Act, 2002).

Children’s Services have a duty to provide the whole family or any family member (s.17 (3)) with services that are designed to meet the overall aim to keep children with, and return them to, their parents and extended family (wherever possible) and this includes:

  1. Reduce any need for any court appearance for care, supervision, criminal and family proceedings (Sch.2, Para 7);
  2. Services that may provide alternative accommodation for an adult in order that a child may remain at home (Sch 2, Para 5);
  3. To have contact with family, friends, others with PR while being looked after {Sch.2 Para 15(1)).

Under the Human Rights Act, 1994:

  • Children and families have a right to private family life (Article 8);
  • There should be no discrimination in exercising their rights (Article 14);
  • If involved in a court hearing they have a right to a fair hearing. (Article 6).


5. Key Principles of Family Group Conferences

The following principles underpin FGC practice:

  • The child’s welfare is paramount;
  • Families should be empowered to be centrally involved in planning for children’s futures;
  • Knowledge does not equal power to some participants, rather knowledge equals empowerment to all participants;
  • Children should be involved and appropriately participate in the decision making process;
  • It is essential to work in partnership with families by:
    • Showing respect to each participant;
    • Ensuring accountability for each person’s contribution;
    • Valuing each person’s contribution;
    • Respecting the principle that, wherever possible, children are best looked after in their own families;
    • Gaining an understanding of each families' unique and individual needs and practice in a way to meet these needs;
    • A child’s need for permanence is critical to ensure their ongoing development. The family should be centrally involved in decision-making around permanency planning for the child.


6. Referral Criteria

A referral for a Family Group Conference needs to be considered when the following circumstances apply:

  • A child or young person has been accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act (1989);
  • When consideration is being given to care proceedings (see Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure);
  • A child or young person is identified as a Child in Need;
  • A child or young person resides with his/her parents and it appears this living arrangement is likely to break down - due to relationship issues or Child Protection issues;
  • A child or young person is accommodated by relatives or foster carers and the placement has become unstable;
  • A young person is leaving care;
  • As part of early intervention/prevention planning, where a family are experiencing multiple and complex needs and where the conference will provide an opportunity for family members to develop solutions to current problems. Referrals to FGC under this criteria should already have explored the Early Intervention process as this will provide the agency support required for the family.

All referrals for a Family Group Conference should be fully discussed with the family and consent obtained.

There are situations where a referral for a Family Group Conference may not be appropriate. A referral would be considered inappropriate to proceed under the following circumstances:

  • Isolated asylum seeking children;
  • Families have refused consent to share information that is relevant for the safeguarding of children;
  • Families have indicated a preference for another format of decision making for the children i.e. through court;
  • Level of violence within the family is such that the risks to the participants in a FGC could not be managed.


7. Roles and Responsibilities

7.1 Role of the Family

  • Attend the FGC;
  • Develop a plan with their family;
  • Write up a plan;
  • Monitor the plan;
  • Carry out all agreed tasks in the plan;
  • Review the plan.

7.2 Role of the FGC Facilitator

The role of the FGC Facilitator includes:

  • Meet with the social worker to confirm aims and objectives, questions and bottom-lines of the FGC. Ensure these are clearly communicated with the family;
  • Meet with the family and gain consent to proceed with the FGC. The person with Parental Responsibility and the child (if considered to have the capacity to provide consent) must agree for a FGC to proceed, prior to any contact with other family members. If consent is withheld, legal advice should be sought if the aim of the meeting is to identify family and friends / connected persons or permanent care arrangements for a child;
  • Identify any issues for the family to meet together;
  • Work with the family to identify ways these issues can be either resolved or managed at the meeting;
  • Identify and explore the wider family network and assist them in preparing for the FGC;
  • Engage and liaise with professionals involved with family;
  • Encourage and support attendance at the meeting;
  • Ensure children and young people are enabled to adequately participate in the FGC at a level they are comfortable with. This will include working directly with the child / young person to assist them preparing for the meeting. It may also include arranging an advocate for the young person;
  • Chair the information giving stage of the FGC;
  • Be available to assist the family during private family time;
  • Help clarify the plan with the family;
  • Enable the family to feed back the plan to the social worker;
  • Distribute the plan to all in attendance at the FGC. In addition, to ensure copies are provided to the following teams where relevant:
    1. Child Protection / IRO Unit;
    2. Fostering Team;
    3. Permanency and Adoption Team;
    4. Children’s Guardian.
  • Support the family with arranging their review.

7.3 Role of the FGC Coordinator

The role of the FGC Facilitator includes:

  • Accept referral and send written confirmation to the referrer that the referral has been received, who the allocated facilitator will be and next steps;
  • Provide supervision to FGC facilitators;
  • Ensure Facilitator is available for every FGC;
  • Monitor implementation of family plans. If any concerns emerge regarding this, the Manager should discuss with the relevant teams as the FGC may need to be reconvened to ensure all issues are addressed.

7.4 Role of the Social Worker

The role of the social worker includes:

  • Attend a baseline meeting with FGC Facilitator and FGC Coordinator. Ensure that the Team Manger is also aware of this meeting;
  • Inform the FGC Facilitator of any changes that occur;
  • Prepare a report on the background, issues and bottom lines for the FGC and ensure this is shared with the family one week prior to the meeting;
  • Attend the FGC, if not able to ensure there is appropriate representation from the referring team for the full length of the conference;
  • To provide information to the family at the FGC and be available to answer questions - such as - clearly communicating any assessments to the family and communicating resources that the Local Authority can and cannot commit to the child / young person;
  • Consider the plan developed by the family. If necessary, consult with Team Manager before agreeing the plan;
  • Support the family to carry out the plan;
  • Ensure the family plan is made available at any child protection conferences or Looked After reviews for the family plan to be amalgamated into these plans;
  • If the plan recommends a connected persons placement, to ensure referral for assessment is made within one week of the meeting;
  • To attend the review.

7.5 Responsibilities of the Team Manager

The responsibilities of the team manager includes:

  • To ensure social worker completes referral in a timely manner;
  • To agree referral objectives and projected outcomes;
  • To agree bottom-lines, questions and resources;
  • Be available to attend the bottom-line meeting if social worker will require any additional support in clarifying bottom-lines, questions and resources;
  • Ensure allocated social worker, or in absence of the allocated social worker, another social worker attends the FGC. This is not negotiable;
  • Agree the plan;
  • Ensure the implementation of the FGC plan and monitoring as appropriate.


8. Legal Issues for Family Group Conferences

All arrangements and conduct of Conferences will be governed by current legislation.

8.1 Disclosure

If personal information needs to be shared in the conference, this should only usually be disclosed with the consent of the subject of the information. Only in exceptional cases, such as where a child is at immediate risk, or to prevent or following commission of a crime, will this principle be overridden. Access to personal information is governed by the Data Protection Act 1998 and accompanying Guidance which should be complied with. Legal advice should be sought if there is concern about disclosure issues.

8.2 Consent to hold a Family Group Conference

Consent to hold a FGC must be obtained from the person with Parental Responsibility (PR) and the young person considered sufficiently capable to provide consent (Fraser Competent). No contact with any other family members can occur until this consent has been obtained. If a person who has PR is deemed incapable of providing consent (for example, due to mental illness, or there are unable to be located) consultation with Legal Services needs to take place.

A young person considered Fraser Competent may wish for a FGC to be held with or without their parent/person with PR present. If there are difficulties in obtaining the consent of an adult with PR to proceed with the FGC in their absence, legal advice should be sought.

The Children Act, 2004 gives particular decision-making rights to people with parental responsibility for a child. The forum of a FGC aims to take account of these whilst working with a family’s decision making processes so that a family can jointly come to an agreement on a Plan they can work with and commit to.

8.3 Guardians / Solicitors attendance at FGC’s

Family Group Conferences are not legal processes, they are family processes designed to facilitate family communications and decision-making. As such, it is not consistent with this model to involve legal personnel in these processes.

If a family member wishes to include a solicitor in a FGC, the FGC Facilitator will discuss with the solicitor the reasons why their attendance has been sought and alternatives to this. The FGC service will not facilitate a meeting with solicitors present, as it is inconsistent with the principles of a FGC.

The FGC Facilitator must ensure Children’s Guardians are informed of the referral for a FGC and ensure they are provided with a copy of the questions and bottom-lines for a FGC. If the Guardian disagrees with any of the questions or bottom-lines for the conference, the guardian should attempt to resolve these issues with the social worker. The FGC service can only accept any changes to the bottom-lines or questions from the allocated social worker, Team Manager or Calderdale Council Legal Services.

A Children’s Guardian should only attend a FGC if requested by the family. The Facilitator would need to clarify with the family what role the Children’s Guardian is to play at the meeting i.e. as advocate for a child. A Children’s Guardian should never participate in private family time.


9. Consultations

The FGC service is able to meet with social workers or other professionals, families, children and young people to discuss the appropriateness of a FGC. This includes:

  • The ability to meet with a family prior to a referral to discuss the FGC process and families willingness to be involved;
  • An availability to meet with social workers to discuss the possibility of a referral;
  • Assistance to a social worker if required in completing a referral.


10. Procedure

10.1 Referral

A referral form is completed by the social worker within 7 days. Referral objectives are as follows:

  1. Rehabilitation;
  2. Stabilise Placement;
  3. Improve contact arrangements;
  4. Maintain contact with birth parents;
  5. Maintain contact with family and friends carers;
  6. Improve family relationships;
  7. Permanent care arrangements - (connected persons or alternative);
  8. Early intervention.

The referral should be sent to the FGC service based at the following address:

Calderdale Council FGC Service
Northgate House
Northgate
Halifax
HX1 1UN

Tel: 01422 392658
Email: Sharon.field@calderdale.gov.uk/ Emma.Williams@calderdale.gov.uk

The social worker will receive acknowledgement of the referral and be advised of who the referral is to be allocated to. The allocated Facilitator will make contact with the social worker to arrange a baseline/bottom line meeting. It is anticipated the baseline meeting can occur within 10 working days of the referral being received.

10.2 Bottom Line Meeting Calderdale Council Family Group Conference

A bottom line meeting is a meeting between the referring social worker, the FGC Facilitator. The purpose of the meeting is to:

  • Clarify the referral objective;
  • Obtain relevant child and family information;
  • Confirm the questions for the family to address at the FGC;
  • Confirm the bottom-lines for the FGC. Bottom-lines can be defined as the non-negotiable position of the Local Authority. For example, if the child cannot live with a particular person, this should be stated. Bottom-lines must not exceed the statutory authority of the Local Authority;
  • Confirm the resources available to the family, child i.e. establishment costs for a placement with relative.

A record of the baseline meeting is completed by the FGC Facilitator and sent to both the social worker and Team Manager for any corrections to the bottom-lines or questions.

A baseline meeting should be held within 10 working days of the FGC service receiving the referral. If the meeting cannot be held within this timeframe, the reasons for not being able to meet within 10 working days should be recorded on the FGC file and the electronic record system.

Baselines cannot be statements about what should or should not happen where this is beyond the remit of the social worker’s legal powers. 

10.3 Meeting Preparation

10.3.1 Exclusion

There may be occasions that it is appropriate to exclude people from attending a FGC. The FGC Facilitator in consultation with the FGC Coordinator would make this decision. This decision to exclude a person from attending would be based on:

  • The child's best interests; or
  • It would be considered contrary to the purposes of the FGC.

The Facilitator cannot exclude the child or social worker from attending a FGC.

The decision to exclude a person should be exercised rarely and only after strategies to avoid excluding has been considered in consultation with the FGC Coordinator. Reasons to exclude a person may include:

  • An offender identified as posing a risk to children;
  • Risk of harm to the child or another person who will be attending the family group conference indicated by the person having threatened emotional or physical harm;
  • A history of domestic violence and a severe power imbalance in the family and the victims of the violence have indicated that they may be too intimidated and afraid to express their ideas if the perpetrator is present;
  • Evidence that the person has a mental illness and is likely to become distressed to such a degree that the meeting will be unable to function;
  • The child has been a victim of abuse or neglect and the Facilitator (in consultation with other professionals) believe that the perpetrator's presence is likely to pose a psychological or emotional risk to the child's wellbeing and ability to participate in the meeting.

10.3.2 Contact with Family

Contact with the child’s parents / person with Parental Responsibility should occur in the first instance. The Facilitator will need to address the following with family members:

  • Consent for the FGC to proceed (from the parent / person with PR / young person);
  • Consent from the parent / young person for the disclosure of information pertinent to the FGC to the rest of the participants at the meeting;
  • The parent's right to have a support person present at the family group meeting i.e. cultural representative or friend;
  • The overall aim of the FGC and reason for the referral;
  • Questions and bottom-lines that need to be addressed at the FGC and resources available to the family / child;
  • Any difficulties the parents may have in managing their emotions and reactions during the meeting and who can assist them with this;
  • The identification of family members and their contact details;
  • The tentative time, date, venue;
  • Any additional needs that the family will require to enable them to participate at the meeting, i.e. Loop system, access to building, welcoming to the meeting to occur by cultural elder etc;
  • Where a parent is unable or chooses not to attend the FGC, whether they wish to participate in the meeting in some other way.

10.3.3 Rights to information

A family should be given all the information necessary for them to be able to make a safe plan for their child/ren. This includes:

  • Full information about any concerns held by Children’s Social Care about the child/ren who is/are the subject of the FGC;
  • Information on relevant resources that could be used as part of a Plan, e.g. services available from Children’s Social Care, community groups and resources, diversion activities, any financial support or benefits.

Parents / carers may not agree about release of information relevant to their affairs being disclosed to the rest of the family, for example if there were concerns about a parent’s drug use and the impact on their parenting capacity. The FGC Facilitator’s role is to encourage the parent / carer to allow the disclosure of this information, as without family being provided with the full information regarding the concerns, they would be unable to develop plans to address these concerns. If the parent / carer decline to allow the release of this information, the FGC would not be able to proceed as the family will not be given the information to enable them to make safe plans for a child’s future.

10.3.4 Contact with Child / Young Person

The Facilitator must speak with the child, unless it would be inappropriate because of the child's age or it would impact detrimentally on their welfare and explain:

  • The reason for the FGC referral;
  • What it was hoped the FGC could achieve;
  • What the questions and bottom-lines are for the meeting and what resources are available to assist the family.

The Facilitator must determine the following:

  • Consent - if appropriate;
  • Whether they would like to participate;
  • How they would like to participate and what supports they may need to enable this;
  • Whom they would like to have at the meeting to support them i.e. supportive relative, advocate;
  • Any concerns the child / young person has about the meeting, including family relationship issues;
  • Whom they consider 'family' or as significant to them that they would like to attend the meeting;
  • Where the child does not want to attend the meeting, how they would like to participate, for example, by use of advocate, teleconference, recording or letter; and
  • What issues, needs and overall aims they would like addressed at the meeting.


11. The Family Group Conference

It is the FGC’s Services view that referrals for a FGC will have the conference within 42 days of the bottom-line meeting with the referring agency taking place. There will however be occasional exceptions to these i.e. family members are away.

There are three stages in the Family Group Conference. These can be summarised as follows:

11.1 Stage 1: Information Sharing

The family already attend the FGC with a wealth of information about their family and family history. It is necessary that the professional services at the meeting also provide the family with the following information:

  • Reason a FGC has been requested and what the referring worker hoped the family could; achieve;
  • Statutory duties and responsibilities;
  • Sharing of any concerns for a child or young person and why these concerns are held;
  • The outcome of any assessments undertaken;
  • Opinion based on professional observation and assessment;
  • What further services the family can continue to expect to receive.

The FGC Facilitator has an equal responsibility in ensuring the information givers who attend the FGC are prepared for the meeting in terms of what information the family would like to receive and what questions they might expect to be asked. This enables the information giver to attend the meeting with the best quality information as is possible to provide the family.

The information sharing stage of the meeting is facilitated by the FGC Facilitator. The following are general guidelines for this stage of the meeting:

  1. Welcome and introductions;
  2. Acknowledging any specific needs i.e. Use of translator, or cultural expectations;
  3. Clarifying the process of the meeting;
  4. Ground rules and expectations;
  5. Providing opportunity for information givers to share their information;
  6. Ensure family have opportunity to ask any questions;
  7. Ensure family are clear about the questions, bottom-lines and resources;
  8. Ensure family have the ability to prepare the plan in private family time i.e. how they want to present the plan, necessary equipment available for them (pens, paper, recorders);
  9. Ensure children are provided for during private family time.

No extra or new information should be presented at the FGC. However, if new information has arisen that needs to be shared to safeguard the child, the FGC Facilitator should discuss this with the person who has the information as to the most appropriate way of introducing this. It is important that the information given will be in a clear jargon-free language that is respectful to the family.

11.2 Stage 2: Private Family Time

  • The Facilitator and other agencies withdraw, leaving the family network to plan in private. The family have three tasks:
    1. To agree a plan that meets the needs of the child/young person, and addresses any concerns that have been raised. It needs to meet the ‘bottom lines’ contained in the report of the social worker;
    2. To agree contingency plans;
    3. To agree their part in implementation, monitoring and reviewing the plan.
  • The FGC Facilitator and the social worker need to be available during this time should the family need any clarification or additional information. It is important, however, that the family feels the FGC Facilitator is confident that they are able to carry out the tasks;
  • The Facilitator should ask the family who they would like to present the Plan, and be spokesperson for the family;
  • No record is kept of the Private Family Time or of the meeting process, other than the FGC Plan written by the family.

11.3 Stage 3: Agreeing the Plan

  • Once a Plan is made, the Facilitator and social worker meet again with the family to consider the Plan, agree who has responsibility for carrying out key aspects of it (including representative from other agencies) and agree resources;
  • The social worker will agree the plan if it meets the bottom line as described in the social work report and does not put any child at risk of Significant Harm. It may be helpful that the social worker take a break from the meeting to consider the plan in private or to consult with their line manager. The social worker may want to have a break to consider any implications from the proposed plan or any areas that need to be clarified before this is agreed;
  • It may be that there is a need for the plan to be agreed within another context, i.e. Child Protection Conference, Children Looked After or Court Proceedings, or that resources requested which were not previously discussed with need to be negotiated outside the FGC, and in this situation, it may be possible only to agree the Plan in principle at this stage;
  • Where such a delay in agreeing the plan occurs the Facilitator will seek to ensure that a decision is obtained about the plan as soon as possible and will notify all FGC participants of this decision;
  • If the plan is not agreed after such a delay the Facilitator will engage in discussions with key family members and the social worker in order to decide how best to proceed. The family should be given the option of reconvening the FGC;
  • Contingency plans and reviewing arrangements are also agreed, and form part of the Plan;
  • Monitoring arrangements should also be discussed and agreed at this point, and form part of the Plan;
  • Part of this process will be an agreement about how the Plan will be implemented and who will be responsible for this. It is essential that there is agreement between the family and agency representatives regarding what will happen if the Plan, or any parts of it, are not implemented, or if agreed resources are not provided;
  • The Facilitator will offer to have the Plan typed, but if the family prefer to do this themselves, the family should be asked to return this to the Facilitator when completed. The Facilitator will then ensure that copies of the Plan are circulated to everyone who attended the meeting. It may also be sent to any other interested parties who were unable to attend, with the agreement of the family;
  • The Plan is the only record of the Family Group Conference.

11.4 Documenting the FGC Plan

  • The family are encouraged to write the plan within private family time. If the family are uncomfortable in undertaking this task, the FGC Facilitator should assist the family in putting the information into a written format prior to feeding back to the social worker;
  • Additions, clarifications and amendments can often occur after the plan has been initially written - the family often adds these verbally during the “agreeing the plan” stage of the meeting. The FGC Facilitator should note these additions; clarifications and amendments of the family plan and add these points to the original plan. It must be noted in the plan the points that have been recorded by the FGC Facilitator;
  • The FGC Facilitator will take a copy of the plan and type this - unless the family would prefer to undertake this responsibility. The FGC Facilitator must ensure they have a copy of the plan at completion of the FGC;
  • The FGC Facilitator should distribute the Plan within seven working days of the FGC. The FGC Facilitator should also ensure the plan is placed on the child’s Children’s Services file.

11.5 Reviews

The purpose of the FGC review is to ensure that family plans with a child, young person and other family members is responsive to the child's needs and is in their best interest.

A review of the family plan provides a formal opportunity for the family to review progress together with the social worker and ensure the plans ongoing relevance.

A review of a family plan is a critical component of the planning process and families should be provided with an opportunity to have a review.

All reviews need to consider the following:

  • Have the key actions in the family plan been completed? (If not and are still relevant, what is needed to complete the actions?)
  • Are there any outstanding issues for the child’s welfare?
  • Are there any new issues that have emerged that need to be considered?
  • Are any new actions required to meet the needs of the child? What are these actions and who will complete them.

Reviews are facilitated by the FGC Facilitator and will generally occur 3 months after the initial FGC. However, the timescale for when the review occurs may be up to 6 months if all are in agreement this would be preferable.

All families should be offered a review; however, it is the family decision as to whether a formal review occurs. Families may choose to review the plan themselves informally.

The stages of a FGC review are similar to that of a FGC.

  1. Information sharing - structured facilitation by the FGC Facilitator;
  2. Private Family Time - optional;
  3. Compiling and agreeing the Family Plan;
  4. Planning further informal reviews - FGC Facilitator assists families to identify how they will continue to review and update the family plan themselves.

11.6 Evaluations

At the completion of each FGC, the FGC Facilitator will send to each family member, child and social worker an evaluation form to be completed. This is regarded as a critical aspect of the FGC service and development.

If the parent or child will have difficulty in completing this form due to literacy issues or other reasons, the Facilitators should offer to assist them with the form and request another Facilitator to assist them in completing the form.

11.7 Closure

Closure is an important process that FGC Facilitators must undertake with families. Throughout the FGC intervention with families, one of the Facilitator’s primary functions is to empower the family to take responsibility for planning for children. The FGC service is limited to providing a FGC and one review. The family need to be informed of the service providing short-term input only. It is a key outcome of a FGC that families are able to autonomously continue to exercise such planning and decision making for children after FGC service has closed. Ensuring that families have the confidence and resources to continue with these processes is a key objective of the closure role of the FGC Facilitator.

Discussing when to close a case is a decision made jointly between the FGC Facilitator and FGC Coordinator as a part of the supervision process. When this decision has been made and agreed by the FGC Coordinator, the case will be closed.

The FGC service will cease involvement with families when the following has occurred:

  • The FGC and review have been completed;
  • The FGC has been completed and no review is to occur;
  • The referral has been assessed as inappropriate;
  • The family withdrew or did not provide consent for the FGC to proceed;
  • A decision was made that it would be inappropriate to proceed. I.e. safety issues too significant.

The FGC Facilitator must complete the following tasks prior to closing a case:

  • To meet with the family and child (if appropriate) and explain the reasons why the case is to be closed. To ensure the family are clear about how they will continue to jointly review the plans they have made;
  • To complete the FGC Closure Summary;
  • Written confirmation of FGC service closure to family members, child / young person, referring social worker, current social worker (if different) and other professionals in attendance at the FGC;
  • All contact notes completed and placed on the FGC file.


12. Recording

The FGC Services primary function is to facilitate the family group conference. FGC Facilitators are not information gatherers. As such, all recording will reflect information related solely to the FGC. A detailed record will only be made when there is information given relating to concerns for a child’s or other persons safety or an observation has been made relating to concerns for a child or other persons safety. These records will be forwarded immediately to the relevant social work team.

Case recording will occur electronically on the child’s FGC file. The additional recording requirements are as follows:

  • Receipt of referral recorded on the electronic record system;
  • Baseline document will be copied onto the electronic record system;
  • Family Plan will be copied onto the electronic record system;
  • Family Review will be copied onto the electronic record system;
  • Any significant event; 
  • Contacts;
  • FGC Closure Summary to be recorded on the electronic record system;
  • Any critical contact notes whereby safety concerns have been noted must be forwarded to the allocated social worker, Duty or Team Manager;
  • Critical contact notes that indicate rationales for decisions must be recorded on the electronic record system. - for example, why a FGC has been delayed beyond 42 days.


13. Use of Family Group Conferences in Specific Circumstances

13.1 Children in Need

Relevant legislation is Section 17 of the Children Act 1989:

“17—(1) It shall be the general duty of every local authority (in addition to the other duties imposed on them by this Part)—

(a) To safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and

(b) so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families, by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs.”

Extended family often plays a critical role in supporting the child and parents within the birth parent unit. A Family Plan can provide long-term, responsive and ongoing support to parents in caring for children. Informal family support is often more flexible, creative and more accessible than plans that do not involve the rest of the family. The ongoing nature of family relationships and contacts also support the child’s sense of identity and belonging within the family unit. Family Plans in the early stages of intervention can prevent future family breakdown and as such, should always be considered for every child in need.

Referrals are made by the allocated social worker. The social worker should discuss with them family before making a referral whether they believe a FGC would be of assistance. A referral could also be a recommendation from a Child in Need meeting.

13.2 Rehabilitation

  • A FGC referral must be made within 2 weeks of a child being Accommodated under S20;
  • A Family Group Conference referral should be made as soon as accommodating a child becomes likely or is being considered. A referral may be made at any stage during the period of a child being looked after, either by recommendation of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), the social worker or at the request of the family;
  • The FGC is not designed to replace the Looked After Review and should not therefore be viewed as an alternative to this system;
  • The FGC Facilitator must inform the IRO when a referral for a FGC is received and forward them a copy of the referral;
  • At the Baseline Meeting, the LA’s ‘bottom lines’ are discussed and these should reflect the Looked After plan that was agreed at the Looked After Review. If the child is subject to Care Proceedings, the social worker must discuss the Bottom-Lines and confirm these with Legal Services;
  • During the Family Group Conference, the family may wish to decide on a different plan for the child/ren contrary to the child’s current Care Plan. If the Child is subject to either an Interim Care Order or a Care Order, the family can only recommend a plan;
  • If the child is accommodated under S20 of the Children Act 1989 the family may propose a plan contrary to the Looked After plan. If this result in the ending of the period of accommodation, and those with parental responsibility for the child and the social worker agree that this is in the child’s best interests then the plan should be agreed in consultation with their Team Manager and IRO. If the proposed plan means that the child continues to be accommodated, then the process should be followed as for a child subject to a Care Order.

13.3 Exploring Placement with Family and Friends / Connected Persons: The Wider Context

The evidence that children benefit from remaining within their family network is widely accepted and very well researched and documented.

The Department of Health encourages consideration of family and friends care to fulfil national objectives in safeguarding children (from system abuse), best value, and placement stability. Significant research has found that family and friends Care:

  • Has a lower disruption rate than foster or adoptive care;
  • Re-informs a child’s’ sense of identity and self worth;
  • Supports a Childs cultural heritage;
  • Reduces the trauma of family separation;
  • Enables ongoing contact with siblings and family members.

Care by family and friends / connected persons also plays a key role in promoting permanency and producing improved outcomes for children who cannot live with their parents.

FGC’s play a critical role in being able to assist the process of enabling children to remain within their family network by identifying family members that are willing and able to fulfil this role. Family Group Conferences are appropriate to identify who in the family can care for a child or young person, what supports the carer will require, how long this arrangement will be available, how the family will manage contact between the child and birth parents and whether any orders are required to support these arrangements.

The FGC Facilitator should ensure the following are provided with a copy of the Family Plan if the objective of the FGC was to identify a connected persons carer:

If an assessment is required of the connected persons carer prior to placement, it would be expected that the referral for this assessment is made within one week of the conference, to avoid delay for the child being Accommodated within their family.

13.4 Develop Identity and Belonging

FGC’s play a role in assisting:

  • The child to know and understand their family background;
  • The child to be connected, as far as possible in positive ways to their immediate/extended family;
  • The child with connection to their ethnic / cultural background.

FGC’s bring these components together in a conference that reinforces the child’s identity and sense of belonging to a broader family unit.

As such, FGC’s should always be considered when the following key needs are identified:

  • A young person is leaving care;
  • A child is looked after and the maintenance of family relationships is critical;
  • Contact between the child and family needs to be improved;
  • Family relationships could be improved.


14. Permanency Planning

A Family Group Conference is a key requirement when planning for the care of a child or young person away from their birth parents on a permanent basis. This could be achieved through:

Connected Persons care:

Alternative carers:

Where consideration is being given for a child not to remain in their birth parents care, a referral for a FGC must be made for the family to consider:

  • Any other family members who are willing, able and suitable to care for the child on a permanent basis;
  • If there are no family members able to undertake this, how they can support the permanency planning for a child.


15. Use of a FGC for Children on the Child Protection Plan

  • The Family Group Conference is not designed to replace a Child Protection Conference and should not be seen as an alternative route to convene a Child Protection Conference;
  • If at the conclusion of a Section 47 investigation, the decision is to convene a Child Protection Conference, this would proceed in line with West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding Children Boards Procedures;
  • A referral for a FGC can however be made prior to a Child Protection Conference. If the FGC meeting occurs prior to the CP Conference, the social worker must present the Family Plan at this conference for consideration as to whether this plan is sufficient to address the identified concerns;
  • A FGC referral should be considered at the Initial Child Protection Conference and Child Protection Review Conference. The Conference Chair must advise the FGC service that a recommendation has been made for a FGC;
  • If a FGC occurs while a child is on the CP plan, it is the responsibility of the social worker to ensure this plan is integrated into the Child Protection Plan. The FGC Facilitator must ensure the Conference Chair is aware a referral has been received and provide the Chair with a copy of the Family Plan;
  • A FGC referral should only be considered for a child on the Child Protection Plan if it satisfies the referral criteria as stated above;
  • A key factor is the Baseline Meeting, at which Children’s Social Care Services ‘bottom lines’ should reflect the Child Protection Plan created at the Child Protection Conference;
  • During a Family Group Conference a situation may arise when the family is wishing to propose a different Plan for the child/ren, which is contrary to the Child Protection Plan. The social worker would need to advise the family they are not authorised to agree to such a proposed plan at the FGC.

Any revision to the Child Protection Plan can only be made at the Child Protection Conference or Core Group meeting. Where possible the Child Protection Conference should be reconvened early in order to facilitate this discussion. The family should be provided with information as to who would consider their proposed plan and when this plan could be considered.


16. Use of a Family Group Conference for Children Subject to Legal Proceedings

  • Family Group Conferences should be considered prior to Care Proceedings. If an application for an Emergency Protection Order or Interim Care Order has been made, a FGC can still be highly relevant. In these circumstances, the Children’s Guardian must be informed of the FGC referral by the Facilitator and must be invited to the FGC if the family request their attendance;
  • The social worker and Team Manager would need to set bottom-lines in consultation with Calderdale Council Legal Services;
  • As the courts will make final decisions, the social worker will not be able to approve the family plan. However, they should provide a statement as to whether the proposed plan will be supported by the Local Authority. The Local Authority will provide a copy of the Family Plan to the Court;
  • Family Group Conferences can be used where there are contact issues. This will enable families to take responsibility for ensuring safe contact and, again, the plan can be presented to Court as part of Care Proceedings, or in application for contact orders where this meets the criteria for referral to the Family Group Conference Service.

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