Surrey's Family Group Conference service is accredited by The Family Rights Group and follows their practice guidance.
- What is a Family Group Conference?
- What can I expect from a Family Group Conference?
- How can I access a Family Group Conference?
What is a Family Group Conference?
All families run into problems from time to time and often with the help of friends and family, things are sorted out. But sometimes a little extra help is needed and the Family Group Conference exists to help in these situations.
The conference is a meeting where you, your family, your network (this can include friends, family, neighbours and professionals) and a support person/advocate (who can speak for you if you don't want to) get together to work out a plan for your child/children, to make sure they are kept safe and well cared for. As part of this they will work to:
- improve family relationships
- keep a child with their family or in kinship care
- make sure that children who may be looked after by the local authority have a stable home
- enable the family to work out where it's best for the child to live permanently
If you need help from a Family Group Conference, a coordinator will explain what will happen and be there to support you throughout the process. The conference lasts as long as is needed for a plan to be created.
What can I expect from a Family Group Conference?
Preparing for the Family Group Conference meeting
Ahead of the meeting your coordinator will work with you and your child/young person to see who is part of your family network and needs to be involved. This can include wider family, friends and neighbours amongst others. A meeting time and place suitable for everyone will be arranged and the coordinator will let people know what to expect and how to prepare. Sometimes the coordinator can stop someone from attending if absolutely necessary, for example, if there's a possibility of violence. But anyone excluded can appeal and/or contribute in a different way. It is possible to arrange separate meetings if there are safety concerns.
The coordinator will discuss with the child who their support person or advocate will be. They will also arrange any other support that others in the family may need at the conference.
Finally the coordinator will also arrange for key professionals to come to the meeting with clear information about the family's strengths, their concerns, their legal standing and the resources available.
At the Conference meeting
The meeting is chaired by the coordinator and has three parts to it:
It starts with the professionals giving information they have on the child, their concerns and the help, services and resources available. The family then gives information and asks questions. This is also where the views and feelings of the child or young person will be shared.
Private family time
The family and their personal network are then left to plan in private. They will need to:
- agree a plan that meets the child/young person's needs
- ensure the plan is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely
- agree a contingency plan
- and agree how to monitor the plan and review it
Agreeing the plan
Once the family has worked out a plan, professionals re-join the meeting to hear the details and work out the resources available. Timescales for things to happen are agreed along with who is responsible for each action. Contingency and review plans are also agreed. It is the responsibility of the network to review their plan and ensure that it is meeting the needs of the family.
How to access a Family Group Conference
If you think this could be something that would benefit your family, please speak to your social worker and they will be able to make a referral to the service.
Professionals should contact us about making a referral by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.