South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

1.3.5 Family Group Conferencing Procedure

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose and Function
  3. Eligibility
  4. Participants in the Process
  5. Professional Participation
  6. Consent
  7. Status of the FGC Plan
  8. Family Group Conferencing and Child Protection
  9. FGC and Legal Planning
  10. Reviews
  11. Dispute Resolution


1. Introduction

The Family Group Conference process is a nationally recognised process that has been specifically designed to facilitate the empowerment of families by giving the family control of all elements of planning and preparation leading up to their conference and subsequent plan. The key elements of a successful FGC are:

  • The child(ren) are at the centre of the process throughout;
  • It is a voluntary process for families with no coercion or stipulation from others.


2. Purpose and Function

Family group conferencing can be offered to a family when there are concerns for the welfare of the child or young person and a plan is needed to keep them safe or to prevent a situation from escalating. Throughout the process, the child's needs will be at the centre of consideration and will be the reason for the family convening.

On receipt of a referral the FGC service will allocate an FGC coordinator whose role is to assist the family in convening to make a safe plan for the child.

The Family group conference is divided into three stages:

  • Stage 1- information giving. This is the stage professionals are invited to share their information and concerns with the family;
  • Stage 2 - Private family time. The family meet in private to discuss a plan which they feel will address the concerns raised by the professional agencies, including requests for assistance from services;
  • Stage 3 - Agreeing the plan. When the family have drafted a plan the referring professional is invited back into the meeting to discuss and agree the family plan. This time is an opportunity for both parties to explore the component parts of the plan, agree any amendments and points of clarification with a view to final agreement being reached. Once agreement has been reached the plan should be signed.


3. Eligibility

The FGC process is suitable in any circumstances where there are difficulties or problems that are likely to impact on the safety and or wellbeing of a child and they are having sufficient impact on the family to motivate them to convene and problem solve. They tend to be most successful when they have been commissioned at the earliest point in care planning process where there are still genuine opportunities for the family to lead on the decision making. Specifically an FGC can be used to prevent problems escalating to such a level that specialist services such as Social Care or YOS need to become involved, prevent a child being made subject to a Child Protection Plan de-escalation from specialist services such as children coming off a Child Protection Plan or reunification of looked after children.

In accordance with the family justice review, in the event that a child is at risk of entering care either through care proceedings or through voluntary arrangements a family group conference must be considered in all cases.


4. Participants in the Process

The Family Group Conferencing process belongs to the family and as such they determine who the participants are. They decide who their family and kinship network are and who they wish to invite to their conference.

It is the role of the coordinator to map with the child and their family who they see as significant and who they wish to involve in their meeting.


5. Professional Participation

Key professionals involved with the family are invited to attend the first stage of the families meeting to share information with the family and provide insight into the issues faced by the family.

The role of the referring professional is to make a referral to the FGC service having obtained the families agreement to refer.

In situations where the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan all members of the core group will be invited to attend the information stage of the meeting with the family.

All professionals invited will be asked to provide a short report in advance of the meeting which is shared by the coordinator with family during the preparation stages.


6. Consent

This is a voluntary process where families have the right to choose whether to participate in the process. Once the referrer has obtained the consent of the family to make a referral and the case has been allocated, It is the role of the coordinator to obtain consent to convene a family group conferencing from at least one person with Parental Responsibility or the young person if considered Fraser Competent.

Once a family have consented to an FGC and the sharing of their information they are the only people who can decide not to proceed with the FGC. Referring professionals are not at liberty to cancel an FGC.


7. Status of the FGC Plan

There should only be one plan for a child. When an FGC plan is made this becomes the plan for the child and should be referred to and followed by all the involved professionals. When the child is open to Children's Social Care and the Social worker is the professional who referred the family, they must read and agree the plan on the day.


8. Family Group Conferencing and Child Protection

Family group conferencing can be commissioned as part of the child protection plan. All professionals should be clear that in agreeing to commission this service they are explicitly making a commitment to empowering and enabling the family to lead on the decision making in respect of their child. It is therefore, critical that the family is provided with clear unambiguous information including bottom lines on which the family can plan.

To assist with this process the Child Protection Officer responsible for this child must be given sight of the report prepared by the Social worker prior to the FGC coordinator sharing the report with the family. The Child Protection Officer must quality assure the report ensuring that the issues that have been identified are specific to the concerns and are clear and unambiguous.

When the coordinator has shared the report with the family, prepared them and convened the meeting, there is an expectation that the SW will attend the first part of the FGC to share the information and discuss any issues before the private family time and then return at stage three of the FGC to discuss any points arising from the proposed plan with a view to reaching an agreement and signing. The report should be signed at the meeting. Only in exceptional circumstances a delay of no more than 2 days is permissible.

The Social Worker is responsible for ensuring that the family plan once agreed is recorded verbatim onto CareFirst in its entirety as the Child Protection Plan.

This plan will then be distributed to all the core group members who should meet as soon as possible after the FGC to formally accept the plan as the multi-agency Child Protection Plan.

An earlier child protection review should be convened, no later than three months after the making of the family plan, to review the Child Protection Plan in light of the family plan.


9. FGC and Legal Planning

As outlined, this process is about empowering families to make a safe plan for their children. When an FGC has been commissioned the family must be enabled to hold their FGC and any legal processes held off until the outcome is known. When a family plan has been agreed as the plan for the child there should be no need to proceed to a legal planning meeting. Legal planning meetings and FGC's cannot be held concurrently. Parents must be given an opportunity to make a safe plan. Planning to take legal action at the same time as commissioning an FGC is debilitating and undermining for the family and does not demonstrate partnership.

The only exceptions will be if there has been a significant new event within the family that has put the child at an unacceptable risk of harm.


10. Reviews

Families will be offered a time to review their plan by the FGC coordinators at the conclusion of the FGC process. This is entirely optional and will be facilitated by the coordinator at the request of the family.


11. Dispute Resolution

Providing the process is followed in accordance with these procedures and in line with national guidance and families are truly empowered to make safe plans, there should be no occasion for disputes.

The clearer Social Workers are about the issues of concern in their report and the bottom lines the more likely the family will be to make a plan that successfully addresses all the issues.

In the event that there are disagreements, these will only be considered if there are clear indications that the plan is not keeping the children safe and there are outstanding safeguarding issues.

End