Family Group Conference
What is the family group conference service?
Every family is unique, each having it's own culture, personality, personal dynamics and history. All families come up against problems from time to time. Family group conferences can help you sort out some more difficult situations involving children in an easier way, with help from family and friends. Some may need help from:
- social services
- health services
- the education department
- other agencies.
Family group conferences are a way of getting together and making the best plan for children. The decision makers here are family members, not professionals. A family group conference coordinator organises the meeting, and invites the relevant people and make sure everyone at the meeting has the information they need to make decisions.
What happens at a family group conference?
Your coordinator will guide you and your family through from beginning to end. Remember to ask if you have any questions.
Your coordinator comes out to meet with you; this is where you can share what the problems are and what ideas or suggestions you may have to solve them. They will ask you if you think anyone needs to be at your family group conference, and they will also discuss with you who it may be helpful to invite.
They will ask you to suggest a venue; this should be neutral for all family members and somewhere you will feel comfortable. Your coordinator is there to bring the family group conference together and will be neutral. They will agree some ground-rules with you and make sure everyone sticks to them.
At the moment we don't take self referrals. If your child has a social worker or if you get support from one of our local support teams you could ask them to refer you.
There are 5 stages in the process:
The workers present their information on:
- any new concerns that need addressing
The child or young person will have a chance to share their wishes and feelings with the help of their advocate. The family may ask questions about the resources available to them, and they can ask for any other information they may need to be able to write their plan.
Private family time
The family will have some privacy to talk things through together. During this time they will be able to decide on the best solution for them and write their plan.
Agreeing the plan
Once the family have talked things through and made a decision for a plan, the coordinator and referrer will rejoin the family. They will agree if the plan meets the original reason for family group conference and does not put the child at risk.
The coordinator emails the plan to everyone who attended the family group conference. They also email the plan to the referrer's team manager for agreement. If the plan could put the child or children at risk, the family would need to look at the plan again and amend it.
Implementing the plan
The local authority will then begin to work with the family to put the plan into action.
You will also get the opportunity to have a review session at a later stage.
Join the team
Could you help families to hold their own meetings with Children's Services? Become an independent advocate or coordinator. Contact us for details.
Staffordshire Family Group Conference Service
Staffordshire Place 1
Phone: 01785 276800
Frequently asked questions
Questions from families
How is this going to help?
You and your family will work together to come up with a family plan about how things should be in the future.
Who decides who should come to a family group conference?
You do. Your coordinator will talk to you about who you think should attend from your family and friends. You will need to think about:
- who is important to the children
- who can support you in making a family plan for the children to address the issues raised.
What happens if I don't want someone to attend?
Your coordinator will talk to you about your reasons for this. If there are reasons why somebody can't attend in person there may be other ways for them to take part in the meeting. For example, some people may choose to contribute via letter or video or take part by phone.
Which office do you work at?
Your coordinator works from home. The family group conference manager is at the Stafford Area Service Office. You can contact them on 01785 276800.
So what’s stopping us just speaking to our family ourselves?
There may be lots of things stopping you talking together as a family. Having a family group conference will start the ball rolling. You may end up getting together and writing the plan before you get to the family group conference. That would be great. Some families find an independent person helpful when getting together.
Do you work for social services? Are you a social worker?
No to both. We are independent from social workers. You don’t have to have a family group conference, it’s your choice.
Can you help me with other services, housing, benefits etc.?
Let your coordinator know what you need help with. They will try to get the people with services, support or advice to your family group conference.
Can you support us after the family group conference?
No, your coordinator can’t support you after your family group conference. Once you have written your plan it will be up to you, your family and the person who referred you to work to achieve this. Your coordinator will contact the referrer to see if your family would find a review after about 6 weeks, but you can always contact us directly to request a review if you think it would help.
Where were you 6 months ago?
We can only work with families who we have received a referral for. As soon as we receive the referral we attempt to contact you.
What can you do that the social worker can’t?
Your social worker works with you. We can work with all your family to help you look at what you can do to make things better.
Will you come to court with us?
No, but you can take your family plan with you. Make sure you give a copy to your solicitor to present in court.
Will I see you again?
After your family group conference you won’t see your convener again unless you want to have a review. Your coordinator will contact you about 6 to 12 weeks after your family group conference if a review is needed.
Questions from children and young people
Do you work for Social Services? Are you a social worker?
No to both. We are independent from social workers.
Do I have to have an advocate?
You don’t have to have an advocate or go to the family group conference, it’s your choice.
Why are you here?
Your coordinator will help your family to work together to try and make things better for you. Your advocate will spend some time with you to help you think about what needs to be done or changed. They will support you at the family group conference.
How much will it cost me?
How long does it take?
Your advocate will see you at an agreed time and date before and at your family group conference. You will see them again when they come out to share the family plan with you. This can all take about 6 – 8 weeks. This is repeated if your family decides to have a review.
What happens if it doesn’t work?
It doesn’t always work. It may still give you the opportunity to be able to talk about things in a way that you haven’t been able to before.
What if I don’t like the advocate?
Let us know and you can have a different one.
How long will it be before we have the family meeting?
This is different for each family but it should take place within 4 weeks.
Can I go to the meeting?
Usually yes. There may be a reason why it would be better for you if you didn’t go. Your advocate or coordinator will discuss this with you.
Who will be there?
You and your family will decide who should come to the family group conference. You can talk to your advocate about this and make suggestions if you think of someone who could help.
Can my friend come along?
Yes but only if they can help you or your family in some way.
Is it a party?
No it isn’t a party but we like to make family group conference’s as relaxed as possible. We usually have food and refreshments.
Further information can be found on the Family Rights Group website.