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2.2.3 Family Group Conferences

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

FRG, Family Group Conference Standards

RELATED CHAPTERS

This chapter should be read in conjunction with Family and Friends Policy.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was comprehensively updated in March 2018 to reflect the Family Rights Group accreditation and Standards processes for family group conferences. The chapter includes details of the Standards, (see Relevant Guidance above), and describes the 3 elements of the process: Information Giving, Private Family Time and Presenting/Agreeing the Family Plan. The chapter also includes the Referral Form and template referrer report, (see Appendix 1: Family Goup Conference Referral Form and Appendix 2: Referrer/Social Work Report for Family Group Conference).


Contents

  1. Service Description
  2. Standards of Good Practice
  3. The Process of a Family Group Conference
  4. Aims of the Local Authority
  5. Objectives
  6. Criteria
  7. Procedures
  8. Reviewing the Plan
  9. Recording and Information Sharing
  10. Supervision & Professional Development of Independent FGC Coordination

    Appendix 1: Family Group Conference Referral Form

    Appendix 2: Referrer/Social Work Report for Family Group Conference


1. Service Description

1.1 In the London Borough of Southwark, we believe that when given clear and factual information, families can make safe plans for their children. (std 3:1)
1.2 A Family Group Conference FGC is a meeting that is held with as many family members as possible. FGCs are designed to place families at the heart of the decision-making process, empowering them to take an active role in improving the lives of their children. We are committed to the FGC process which enables all involved to express their views and make informed decisions.
1.3 Family in this context refers to blood relatives and non-related significant family, friends, neighbours, voluntary/community agencies and faith groups.
1.4 Our goal is to deliver a high quality service based on the National Framework for Accreditation of FGC Projects.
1.5 The FGC team is an in-house service in Southwark based within the Access to Resources Team, located in the Permanence Service. The FGC service is governed by a multi-service steering group to ensure that the model is embedded across practice. The steering group is also responsible for long term planning, development and innovation, ensuring that the service is reflective of changing needs across Southwark. (See FRG, Family Group Conference Standards).


2. Standards of Good Practice

2.1 The London Borough of Southwark has a commitment to FGC as a decision making process. The offer of referral to the Family Group Conference Service is recommended practice in LB Southwark for all children being assessed as being in need of protection, at risk of coming into the public care system, where an assessment is being undertaken prior to the birth of a child, and prior to the rehabilitation of a child/young person into the care of the family after a period of accommodation by the Local Authority.
2.2 The FGC is a voluntary process and the family decided whether to progress to a FGC, and this consent can be withdrawn at any time. Consent to make a referral to the FGC service is sought from carers/parents with parental responsibility. Children and young people will be supported and encouraged to participate throughout the FGC process. (std 2:1)
2.3 FGC coordinators will ensure that referrers identify what would be considered to be a safe plan (bottom lines as to what must be achieved) and this is outlined in the report to be presented at the FGC. Information will be provided in a clear and understandable way to ensure that the family are fully aware of the concerns before beginning their Private Family Time. (std 5:1)
2.4 Leaflets are provided to explain the FGC process. There are separate leaflets for young people and parents and carers. Translation or any type of additional needs can be provided if needed. (std 7.1)
2.5 All FGC coordinators undertake a Family Rights Group Accredited three day coordinator training course to enable the delivery of the FGC model in line with accredited standards. (std 1:3)
2.6 Coordinator training id focused on effective participatory practice. (std 1:3)
2.7 Equality and Diversity, including the preparation of children and young people, is integral to all coordinator training and service delivery. This will be monitored to ensure that the unique needs of each family are considered and met throughout the process. (std 7:1)
2.8 Training will also include confidentiality, planning for risk management, and the requirements of FGC with other legal requirements, policy and procedures. (std 6:1)
2.9 LB Southwark FGC Service offers a minimum of 2 half day training for Referrers and for Information Givers at FGC (i.e. service providers who may be asked to give information at the Information Sharing Stage) per year. This training will provide an understanding of the Principles and Philosophy of FGC of which working in partnership with families is paramount. (std 5:2)
2.10 The above training also provided a practical guide to the role of the Referrer and/or Information Giver throughout the FGC process. (std 5:2)

FRG, Family Group Conference Standards


3. The Process of a Family Group Conference

The FGC is held in three stages:

3.1

Stage 1: Information Giving

This are of the meeting is chaired by the FGC Coordinator. At the beginning of the FGC the Coordinator, introduces everyone, explains the purpose of the meeting, the process of the FGC, and agrees how the meeting will be conducted. This includes, as required, agreement of explicit ground rules.

The referrer and information givers are expected to clearly state the strengths of the family, issues of concern, and support services available which the family can access. The referrer must also make clear what the ‘bottom line’ is should the family be unable to make a plan.

The referrer and information givers must also be prepared to respond to any queries that the conference members may have including; questions from family members and advocates.

The presentation of the information is important; the FGC is not a formal professional lead meeting such as a Child Protection Case Conference. It is helpful that the information that is presented is clear (jargon free), understandable to the family. Information must be up to date, but not new, there should be no ‘surprises’ for the family members. The information presented will form a part of the preparation work completed by the FGC coordinator prior to the FGC.

The children / young people or vulnerable adult and family members may also provide information via an advocate or other support. They may also ask questions or for clarification.
3.2

Stage 2: Private Family Time

The FGC coordinator, referrer and all professional information-givers then leave the meeting allowing the family to have ‘private time’ alone to consider all the information, explore possible option and make a plan to keep the child safe from harm. Professional information givers, apart from the referrer, can leave the meeting at this stage if appropriate.

Ideally advocate will also leave the meeting, however this will be dependant on the wishes and feeling of the child(ren), young person or vulnerable adult being supported. The FGC coordinator will only join the private family time at the request of the family.
3.3

Stage 3: Presenting the Family Plan (Agreeing the Family Plan)

The FGC Coordinator, referrer and information-givers (if appropriate) then re-join the meeting where the family present their plan and discussion continues as to how the plan will be implemented. At this stage, the referrer has the opportunity to ask clarifying questions of the family, in order to have a clear understanding of how the family’s plan will support and reduce any identified risk of the child(ren) and young people.

The referrer may need to consult with their manager before accepting the plan however it would be good practice to ensure as far as possible that any discussion about resource implications will have taken place prior to the FGC and decision’s made.

It is expected that the family plan will be accepted by the referring agency unless the issue of the child’s safety and well-being has not been satisfactorily address and the child(ren) is deemed to be suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. 

Any reasons for not accepting the family plan must be made clear immediately and the family should be given the opportunity to respond to the concerns and change or add to the family plan, if necessary.

If accepting of the family plan requires the agreement of a manager, the referrer and manager will contact the family within 3 working days from the date of the FGC to advise and confirm the professional view of the family plan.

It is important to ensure that any child(ren) and young people present have a clear understanding of what is decided an that their views are understood. Children and young people will also be given the opportunity to evaluate the conference and plan.


4. Aims of the Local Authority

4.1 The aim of this policy is to ensure that wherever possible, children and young people are offered the opportunity of growing up with secure and strong attachments to relatives, friends and communities.
4.2 The Local Authority would wish to promote minimum statutory intervention in the lives of children for whom it has a duty of care, by seeking alternative arrangements with family or friends.
4.3 For the most part, parents make such arrangements with close relatives as a personal matter without the involvement of the statutory sector. In some cases, the local authority would become involved in helping this process through the use of FGC’s. The local authority would wish to be satisfied that the plans made at FGC’s are in the best interest of the children and recognises that a child’s identity needs are best met within the family or origin or a person known to the child.


5. Objectives

5.1 To reduce the number of children and young people becoming accommodated by the London Borough of Southwark under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989.
5.2 To reduce the number of children and young people being cared for by the London Borough of Southwark on Interim Care Orders or Care Orders and to increase the number of family placements (under Child Arrangement Orders / Special Guardianship Orders).
5.3 To facilitate a rapid rehabilitation of children and young people to their immediate or extended families where they have become Looked After.
5.4 To involve the extended family network in devising appropriate support packages for Children In Need to maintain them within their families.
5.5 To reduce the number of children subject to Child Protection Plans and the length of time before the Child Protection Plan can be discontinued.
5.6 To divert high risk children from offending/anti social behaviour.


6. Criteria

6.1 Consideration must be given to an FGC where:
  • A Single Assessment identifies that a child is at risk of becoming Accommodated under Section 20, Children Act 1989;
  • A child has recently become accommodated and the plan is for early rehabilitation;
  • A Single Assessment identifies the need for a Family Support Plan for a child with a high level of needs e.g. where the carers have mental health or drug and alcohol problems;
  • A Section 47 Enquiry concludes that a child is likely to suffer Significant Harm unless placed away from their immediate family;
  • A Child Protection Conference recommends an FGC as part of devising a Child Protection Plan for a child;
  • Consideration is being given to Care Proceedings in respect of a child suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm;
  • As a recommendation of a Looked After Review where this would contribute to permanency planning or the rehabilitation of a child in Southwark's care;
  • Where there is a negative outcome following a pre-birth assessment;
  • Where there is an application to discharge a Care Order to bring a child home.
6.2 Each case would need to be discussion on its merits and though consultation with the relevant referring team and FGC Lead/PGL. It is important that both professionals and family are clear about the purpose of the FGC and what they are hoping to achieve from it.
6.3 Referral for an FGC does not mean that a FGC will take place, if it is agreed that it would not be appropriate following discussion between the referrer and the FGC Lead/PGL. A referral would not proceed if the family refused consent to share information that it relevant to safeguarding the child(ren) and/or young person.
6.4

The FGC Service involvement will end following the initial and/or review FGC meetings. Involvement may end earlier if:

  • The family do not provide consent for the FGC to proceed;
  • The family withdraws from the process;
  • It becomes inappropriate to proceed, e.g. change in the risk assessment.


7. Procedures

7.1 The recommendation to refer for an FGC can be made by, but not exclusively: a social worker in conjunction with their line manager, Resource Panel, or at a Legal Planning meeting where the criteria for this service are met (see Section 6, Criteria).
7.2 The allocated social worker will fill in and return the referral form (see Appendix 1: Family Group Conference Referral Form) to FGC@southwark.gov.uk. The FGC team will review the referral and ensure that it meet’s the service criteria. It is anticipated that the referral form will be embedded on MOSAIC by April 2018.
7.3 Once the referral is accepted by the FGC team the referral will be allocated to an independent FGC Coordinator. The FGC coordinator will contact the allocated social worker/referrer and arrange a referral meeting to discuss the referral and support the social worker/referrer to complete the SW/referrer report for the FGC (see Appendix 2: Referrer/Social Work Report for Family Group Conference). The social worker will need to show the report to the person(s) with Parental Responsibility and have it signed. The SW/referrer will return the signed form to the FGC team at FGC@southwark.gov.uk, and upload the signed form onto carestore under the Family Group Conference folder. The Independent FGC coordinator will not be able to start arranging the FGC prior to this being returned. It also anticipated that the SW/referrer report will be embedded on MOSAIC by April 2018.
7.4

Responsibility of the FGC Lead/PGL

Discuss the referral with the referrer/line manager and ensure the appropriateness of the referral. The FGC Lead will need to ensure:

  • That there is a plan or decision to be made at this time and the referring agency is willing for the family to come together to do this;
  • The referrer is committed to the FGC process and that a member of staff is allocated to work with the case and attend and input at the meeting. The member of staff must be able to stay for the entirety of the FGC to approve the plan;
  • If appropriate, allocate the referral within 5 working days of receipt of the referral form to a FGC coordinator and send all relevant paperwork to the identified coordinator;
  • Inform the referrer of the name of the allocated coordinator;
  • Quality assure the process by receiving regular updates from coordinators during the process of the FGC; contacting the referrer to check on the progress if there are any identified delays or difficulties in the case; monitor each FGC referral;
  • Monitor the outcomes and evaluation of each FGC;
  • Attempt to resolve and difficulties arising from the process whilst retaining discretion to refuse to accept a referral, to end the process or change the coordinator.
7.5

Responsibility of the referrer:

  • To discuss possible referrals with the FGC Lead and with their immediate line manager;
  • Discuss the possibility of an FGC with the family and young person, highlighting what issues need to be addressed and making clear the departments ‘bottom line’ i.e. likely consequence if there is no change;
  • Obtain verbal consent for the referral to the FGC service from the parents or persons with parental responsibility, and young people, as appropriate. Written consent will be later required for sharing of information and the required report, however verbal consent is accepted for the initial referral and to complete the electronic referral form;
  • Complete the electronic referral form and send to the FGC Service;
  • Provide all risk assessments relevant to the referral and inform the FGC Lead and allocated FGC coordinator of any changes to the risk assessment during the FGC process;
  • To be available to hold a referral meeting with the allocated FGC coordinator within 5 working days of being contacted by the coordinator;
  • Meet with the parents, person(s) with parental responsibility, and young people (as appropriate) to discuss the social worker/Referrer’s report and questions to discuss at the FGC. This report requires written consent and agreement to be obtained in order to progress with information sharing;
  • Return the signed social work/referrer’s report to the FGC coordinator;
  • Ensure a copy of the signed social work/referrer’s report is on the child’s electronic file; 
  • Agreed to the Family Plan at the FGC, unless this places a child at risk. Where this is not possible, and further agreement from line management is required, the referrer must respond with the line mangers decision to the family within 3 working days from the date of the FGC;
  • Ensure that the plan is recorded on the child(ren)’s file;
  • Ensure that the department’s commitment to the plan is followed through;
  • Carry out all statutory and other duties with regard to the child/family;
  • Delay and other planning meetings (expect in an emergency or if delay would cause a statutory meeting to fall outside timescales) until the FGC plan has been agreed.
7.6

Responsibility of the FGC Coordinator:

  • Within 5 working days of allocation the coordinator will arrange a meeting with the referrer (and where possible with the referring line manager and the FGC Lead) to discuss the referral in detail and to support the completion of the social work/referrers report for the FGC, questions to propose to the family, clarification of the ‘bottom line’ and resources available to the family; (std 5:2)
  • On receipt of the signed social work/referrers report, contact parents, person(s) with parental responsibility to start preparation work;
  • FGC coordinator preparation will include:
    • Meeting with all potential attendees (family, friends, neighbours and other identified support people);
    • Provide leaflets and information regarding the FGC process and model;
    • Information about the Children’s Services Complaint and Compliments Procedure;
    • Ensure ongoing communication and preparation is also completed with the referrer;
    • Arranging a venue, time, food/drink as agreed by the family;
    • Consider the individual needs of participants to support participation including, advocacy, travel, child care, language and culture;
    • Send out copies of the family plan, which includes a review date and referrer’s response to the family plan within 5 working days of the FGC/FGC review;
    • Complete feedback and scaling forms with the family and referrer, and return to the Family Group Conference Service.


8. Reviewing the Plan

8.1 In the majority of cases a single FGC should be sufficient to agree a plan. It is likely that in many cases a review FGC will be required to monitor the implementation of the family plan and the option to have a review FGC should be offered to all families at the point of the initial FGC.
8.2 The review FGC is usually planned within three months from the date of the Initial FGC, and the date of the FGC will be written into the family plan. The review enables the family and the referrer to confirm if the plan is working and to adjust the levels of support or resources. And changes to the family plan arising from the Review FGC will be agreed and circulated in the same way as the initial plan.
8.3 All families will be offered a review but it is the family’s decision as to whether a formal review takes place. Families may choose to review the plan themselves informally and will update workers on the progress.
8.4 The success of the plan will depend on the family and the professionals working together, informing each other about the progress of the plan. The team manager will be responsible for the allocation of resources.


9. Recording and Information Sharing

9.1 The primary function of the FGC Service is to facilitate the Family Group Conference and any recording will relate solely to the conference. A detailed record will only be made when information is given which relates to concerns for a children or other person’s safety. These records will be forwarded to the relevant social work team, as per LB Southwark’s Safeguarding Children’s Policy.
9.2 The referrer will be responsible for recording their involvement within the FGC and outcome of the conference. It is the referrer’s responsibility to share all key documentation including relevant sections of the family with Children’s Guardians and the Court, if applicable.
9.3

The FGC Coordinator will during the process:

  • Keep a copy of the referral form;
  • Keep copies of feedback forms and scaling sheets for completion with the relevant participants as necessary;
  • Retain a record of:
    • Name and contact details of family members;
    • A copy of the Family Plan (when completed);
    • Details of anyone who was excluded from the meeting by the coordinator and the reasons for exclusion – risk assessment;
    • Details of any child protection, and health and safety issues which emerged during the process.
This documentation must be kept in a secure, locked location. Information stored on a computer must be password protected and deleted after last follow up.
9.4 Families will be informed about what information is kept and by whom.
9.5 All paperwork remaining with the Coordinator must be destroyed or send to the LB Southwark Family Group Conference Service after the last follow up.
9.6 FGC coordinators do not minute FGC’s or keep details records of conversations of meeting with family members.
9.7 The only part of the process which is recorded in full in the family plan. This will reflect the style and language of the family, and be in their own words. However it needs to be detailed enough to be understood by anyone not present at the FGC (i.e. legal representatives, court).


10. Supervision & Professional Development of Independent FGC Coordination

10.1 All FGC Coordinators will undertake the Family Rights Group 3 day Coordinator Training or an alternative 3 day training recognised and accredited by the Family Rights Group. In addition all new FGC coordinators will receive an induction to Southwark, and be provided the opportunity to shadow and received mentoring from experienced FGC coordinators.
10.2 All FGC coordinators will receive regular supervision. FGC coordinators will be responsible for their professional development, supported by Southwark FGC Service. Continuing Professional Development will be provided through a combination of opportunities for external and in-house training/supervision, mentoring and coaching (std 1:3, 1:4) FGC Coordinators will be expected to take part in a minimum of 2 training sessions per year to maintain professional development with Southwark FGC Service. (std 1:4)


Appendix 1: Family Go up Conference Referral Form

Click here to view Appendix 1: Family Go up Conference Referral Form


Appendix 2: Referrer/Social Work Report for Family Group Conference

Click here to view Appendix 2: Referrer/Social Work Report for Family Group Conference

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