We would like to reassure you that we are closely monitoring the situation and working with the government and NHS.
For guidance on coronavirus and the latest information for Devon, visit Devon County Council’s coronavirus (COVID-19) advice pages.
Family group conferences during COVID-19
What is a family group conference (FGC)
Family group conferences are an opportunity for the family to meet together to make and agree plans about what should happen for children in the family. The term ‘family’ includes extended family and significant friends in your network.
Why have one?
Families may be offered a family group conference if their children are involved with children’s social care. This is an opt-in process. It is the family’s choice and if they decide at any stage that they do not want to continue with the meeting, the process stops.
The independent co-ordinator will help to prepare the family group for the meeting. They will also speak to any service providers and prepare them
The focus of the meeting will always be the child/young person’s needs, and on planning for the future, with no ‘blame’ about the past.
We believe that families can make good plans for their children if they want to be involved in making changes. The underpinning theory is that the family are the primary decision-makers and if given good information, they can create a plan, using resources and strengths untapped by service providers.
Their ownership of the plan shows a greater commitment to managing and resolving difficulties for their children.
How do family group conferences work?
- A social worker agrees with the parents and young person to request a family group conference.
- The family will sign to consent to share information for the meeting, this is called the Confidential Information form. Parents and young people agree to share information openly with others invited to the meeting. When they have signed the ‘agenda’ for sharing the meeting can be convened.
- The independent co-ordinator identifies everyone who will be involved and then prepares them.
- Arrangements are made as to how the virtual meeting will work and help and support offered with these arrangements as needed.
- At the meeting there are three stages:
- Information giving – when the family hears the relevant information about the issues and can ask questions. There will be no new information on the day.
- Private planning time – when the family is left alone to talk and agree their plans.
- Sharing the plan – after the family has agreed the plan it is shared with the independent coordinator and the referrer.
During the virtual meeting, the co-ordinator will type up the plan and share it on screen. When the family are agreed and satisfied with this it will be sent on to the people involved in the planning, including the service providers. The plan will be agreed in full unless it does not keep the child safe.
Families can meet again to review their plan. The family will be asked how it is best to monitor their plan and what emergency arrangement they can make should these be needed for the child/young person.
Who comes to the family group conference?
This will be decided with the family and usually includes relatives and close friends. The person who made the referral will attend and relevant service providers will be invited to share information as needed.
Advocates can be provided to support children, and sometimes adults, through the process. Children are encouraged to attend or share their views whenever possible.
Who do I speak to about having a family group conference?
Families can speak to someone who works with them and ask for a FGC. They can be held for any child where changes need to be made.
Contact our team to see if this is the right option. We can offer to visit families to discuss the FGC process before they decide if they want to proceed.
The decision to have a FGC rests with the family, but decisions may need to be made and if the family either choose not to meet to make any plan or do not feel able to agree on a plan, then someone outside the family may need to make this. This may be a court or other planning process.
We believe it is the child’s right to have their family involved in their planning if at all possible, especially if there may be a risk of them not remaining in the family home. The focus of the FGC will therefore be unique to that family and the current circumstances regarding their child/young person/s.
Information for referrers
During COVID-19 with its changing restrictions and social distancing, we are offering FGCs in a number of creative ways. This includes virtual working – using ‘Teams’ and developing a ‘hybrid’ model which allows for some face-to-face work alongside the virtual offer.
Each meeting will be unique and based on the families needs, and what can work best for them until we can return to full FGCs with all people present together. All our direct work is COVID-19 risk assessed in line with requirements.
We can offer to speak to families directly to explain the process if this would be helpful.
Before you make a referral you will need to speak to families (and young people) about the possibility of a FGC. It is an ‘opt in’ process and families need to consent to share their information to proceed.
If the family are in agreement then a referral should be made. You will need to clearly identify the issues and strengths of the current situation to set an agenda for the family to discuss. Families need to understand why they are meeting and what they are being asked to plan for – along with what may happen if a plan cannot be made or agreed upon.
As the referrer, you will be asked to share relevant information with the family and explain any concerns as well as any resources you can offer (with realistic timescales to access these). The family will be encouraged to ask any questions of clarification.
As the referrer, you will need to be available for the start and end of the meeting. Most meetings take 2- 3 hours in total so please allow enough time to be there.