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2.8 Family Group Conferencing

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter highlights the principles and good practice in relation to Family Group Conferences (FGCs). It also includes the criteria for making a referral and the new procedure on Liquid Logic Children’s System (LCS), and what a family plan should include.

If you are looking for any standard templates to use that are listed in these procedures, please click on the link below as this will take you to the Children's Social Care area of Izzi (the council's intranet).

NB: This is only possible if you are logged into the Council's network.

There are a lot of template documents there but if there is anything you cannot find, please contact the relevant Team or Operational Manager for the area of practice concerned.

Click here to access Izzi

AMENDMENT

This chapter was entirely revised and updated in June 2016 and should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Principles and Practice Guidance
  3. The Criteria for a Family Group Conference Referral
  4. The New Procedure on LCS
  5. The Family Plan

    Appendix 1: Family Group Conference- Workflow

    Appendix 2: Family Group Conference – Social Work Report Template

    Appendix 3: Family Group Conference – Information for Families


1. Introduction

The Family Group Conference Service takes referrals from the Children In Need and Children Looked After Services. It has recently started taking referrals from the Youth Offending Service and made some changes to the way a referral is made. This chapter explains both the principles and good practice in FGCs and also highlights the changes made.


2. Principles and Practice Guidance

The following Principles and Practice Guidance represents the standard of service that families and referrers can expect from the Islington Family Group Conference Service. They have been adapted from the national Principles & Practice Guidance.

The Principles set out what families should expect.

The Practice Guidance describes how the principles will be met.

Principle 1 Families have the right to clear and appropriate information about the family group conference process.
Practice
  1. Families must be given clear information about what a family group conference is. This can be done via the FGC service leaflet or an independent co-ordinator can visit the family and give a clear explanation and answer any questions. It is the social worker’s role to ensure the family understands why they have been offered a family group conference;
  2. Families must be informed about timescales and possible delays;
  3. Information must be available in a way that meets the needs of the family. This is usually in the form of written information for the family and can be translated into another language;
  4. All family members invited must be told who they can contact if they have any questions about the process and about how they can make a complaint. The FGC service leaflet includes this information and the FGC co-ordinators can also give families information on how to make a complaint to the council.

Principle 2

Families have the right to be involved in the planning of the meeting

Practice
  1. FGC coordinators should reflect the local community and, where possible, Islington families will be offered a coordinator who speaks their language, and/or who has an understanding of the way religious beliefs, cultural traditions and other lifestyle issues influence how the family operates.
  2. A coordinator who is independent will co-ordinate the family group conference. ‘Independent’ means that they have not, and will not, be involved in making any decisions about the child.
  3. The meeting will take place at a time, date and place agreed with the family. This could be in the evening or at the weekend and is usually a community venue such as a children’s centre, training venue or community hall.
  4. Adults and young people will need to consent to information held by Islington Children’s Social Care being shared at the meeting.
  5. The coordinator will work with the family and young person to decide who needs to be at the meeting.
  6. The family will decide what language will be used at the family group conference, with interpreters provided for the others present as needed.
  7. The coordinator may decide to exclude individual family members from the meeting if there are concerns that their presence would be a risk to anyone’s safety.

Principle 3

Family members have the right to be acknowledged as decision-makers in the family group conference process.

Practice
  1. The worker referring the family for a family group conference must be clear about what decisions, if any, they may be unable to support and must give reasons for this.
  2. The child or young person and any other family member who requires it will be offered someone to help them make their contribution throughout the process. This person may be called an advocate or supporter, and may be someone within the family network or someone independent, provided by the FGC Service. They will not be someone who is able to make decisions about the family.
  3. The family must be given relevant, factual and jargon free information about the concerns and the resources available.
  4. Parents must be given written information about the concerns in plenty of time before the conference. Usually the Information for the Family will include concerns, resources and the bottom line, and will be shared with the parents and written consent obtained before it is shared with the family network.
  5. Reasonable travel costs and other expenses will be paid for family members who need it.
  6. Family members will have the opportunity to share their concerns and have their questions answered before and at the meeting.
  7. Family members unable to attend for any reason will be supported in contributing in other ways.

Principle 4

Families have the right to private time and a supportive and safe environment to make plans.

Practice
  1. Families will be given time to meet on their own without the coordinator or staff from agencies being present.
  2. The coordinator will ensure that there is a suitable area and time allocated, with appropriate refreshments, for the family to make decisions.
  3. Childcare provisions will be available if required.
  4. The coordinator will work with everyone to enable them to make a plan that meets the needs of the child.

Principle 5

Families have the right to have safe plans agreed and resourced.

Practice
  1. The referring agency must agree to support the family’s plan unless it places a child at risk of harm and must provide reasonable resources to make it happen.
  2. All family members and agencies who attend the conference will receive a copy of the plan within a stated time. The plan will include details of what resources the family needs and how the proposals in the plan will be carried out and monitored.
  3. The family, referring agency and coordinator will agree how the plan will be reviewed and whether a follow-up review should take place, and who will be responsible for making this happen.
  4. Every effort should be made to respond to the family’s plan at the meeting. Families will be informed who will give them a written response, and when and how, if the plan or some of the resources cannot be agreed at the conference.
  5. Agencies whose support is required to carry out a plan should respond within ten days to say whether they can provide the support requested and, if necessary, how long this will take to provide.

Principle 6

Families have the right to be involved in the development of family group conferences.

Practice
  1. All families will be offered the opportunity to give their opinion of the service they have received. This will be in the form of a feedback sheet given out at the end of each Family Group Conference.
  2. Where possible, families will be kept informed about changes made as a result of their comments.


3. The Criteria for a Family Group Conference Referral

Criteria for accepting a Family Group Conference referral will be:

  1. During the course of Care Proceedings & pre-proceedings cases;
  2. To promote rehabilitation;
  3. To prevent family breakdown (e.g. as part of a Child Protection Plan or Child in Need Plan);
  4. For young people at risk of custody or young people coming out of custody.

Please note: The policy in Islington is that all families in pre-proceedings should be offered a Family Group Conference.


4. The New Procedure on LCS

  • Social worker to explain the option of a family group conference with the parents / carers as an opportunity to be involved in decisions about the care of their children. FGC service leaflets are available here Appendix 3: Family Group Conference – Information for Families, in the CIN area (2nd floor, Upper Street) and the CLA area (2nd floor, Elwood Street), or from the FGC manager. See link to Izzi for the leaflet in pdf;
  • If the parents / carers are reluctant to agree or would like more information about the FGC process, then the social worker can make a request to the FGC manager for a visit to the family by a FGC co-ordinator. They can then discuss the process and consider the implications of not going ahead with an FGC with an independent co-ordinator;
  • Once the immediate family agree to a FGC referral, the social worker makes a referral to the FGC Service on LCS. A referral meeting or phone discussion is arranged when the FGC manager receives the referral in the FGC work tray. See the Family Group Conference Workflow;
  • After the meeting or discussion over the phone, the referral is authorised by the FGC Manager and a decision is made to proceed with the referral, or not to if there is a valid reason;
  • The referral is allocated to an independent FGC co-ordinator, who then meets with the social worker to assist in completing the Information for the Family (also known as the social worker’s report). The template for this can be accessed here Appendix 2: Family Group Conference – Social Work Report Template, via Izzi or directly from the FGC manager or co-ordinator;
  • The social worker takes their report to the parent / carer to obtain their signed consent for the information on the report to be shared with all those who will be invited to attend the FGC;
  • The signed report is uploaded on to ICS in ‘documents’ and sent to the FGC manager. At this point the FGC co-ordinator can begin to make contact with the family.

See: The Family Group Conference Workflow


5. The Family Plan

Islington Children’s Services are committed to supporting Family Group Conferences and working with the family plans that are made. This means that family plans will be agreed, implemented and resourced.

The Family Plan is the written document that is produced at a Family Group Conference. It will contain the decisions made by the family in relation to the concerns shared with them by the referrer (i.e. the social worker representing Islington Children’s Social Care). These decisions will be agreed by the social worker and the plan will make it clear what, if any, resources will be provided, by whom, and by when, as appropriate. In effect the family plan should be seen as a kind of service level agreement between the family and Islington Children’s Social Care. The plan is the only document to come out of a Family Group Conference and no minutes will be written.

What should be in the plan:

The family plan must be in the family’s own words and where they are used this must be made clear within the plan. The plan is clear about who will do what and when.

  1. Names of child(ren) who were the subjects of the FGC;
  2. Date and venue of FGC;
  3. A list of everyone who attended – it must be clear who each person is and their connection to the child;
  4. A list of who was invited but was unable to attend;
  5. A list of those to whom the plan will be sent, including those involved through statement or telephone call to the FGC but unable to attend or excluded from attending;
  6. Reason for the FGC – questions that the family were asked to address are included;
  7. The referrer’s response and agreement to the plan. If they cannot agree the plan immediately what will be the timescale for this to happen;
  8. Other agencies’ responses – as above;
  9. Names and contact details of those who have agreed to monitor the plan;
  10. Review conference – a record of how and when the plan will be reviewed;
  11. Name and signature of co-ordinator and contact details.


Appendices

Appendix 1: Family Group Conference- Workflow

Appendix 2: Family Group Conference – Social Work Report Template

Appendix 3: Family Group Conference – Information for Families

End