The Family Group Conferencing (FGC) & Mediation Service is based in Plymouth and offers a range of options to support families in times of difficulty:
- Family Group Conferencing (FGC)
- Mediation between Parent/Carers & Young People
- Mediation between Parents and or family members
- Child & Young Person advocacy
Family Group Conferencing (FGC)
A Family Group Conference (FGC) is a tool for planning and works well as an early intervention. It can also be used in Child in Need, Child Protection and when considering alternative carers for a child. The conference is a decision making meeting in which the child and the child’s wider family network makes a plan about the future arrangements for the child, ensuring that the child is safe and his/her well-being is promoted.
FGCs are intended as a respectful and empowering process in which parents; children and members of the wider family are given clear information about the agency’s concerns and asked to produce a plan addressing those concerns and answering specific questions to support this. The referring agency may stipulate a ‘bottom line’ e.g. that they will not endorse a plan where the child lives with a certain person whom they consider presents a risk to the child
The model places the child and family at the centre of the planning process and provides them with an opportunity to have their voices heard in relation to plans made for their child. There should never be a family plan and a different agency plan; just one plan developed in partnership, with family and agencies working together.
When to consider a Family Group Conference
- Whenever a plan for a child is required
- When there are concerns about a child’s safety and well-being
- When parents are struggling to raise their children and meet their need's
- When children are or have been exposed to domestic violence
- When children are or have been exposed to alcohol and or drug misuse
- When children are or have been exposed to parental mental health issues
- When decisions need to be made about how to reduce offending behaviours
- When decisions need to be made about how to manage challenging behaviours
- To agree contact with a parent or family when a child is in care or cared for by another family member or friend
- To agree contact when parents have separated and are in dispute and are unable to prioritise their children needs
- When decisions need to be made about where a child is going to live if they cannot stay at home
- When there are difficulties with a child’s education such as poor or late school attendance
- When plans need to be made for a young person who is about to leave, or has left, the care system
- When an Initial Assessment is completed and the strategy meeting decision is to commence core assessment under Section 47 of Children’s Act 1989
- When the child protection conference or core group meeting has decided to ask the family to have a Family Group Conference to help develop the child protection plan
- When an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) is in place – where a child has been removed under an EPO and a plan is required for the safe return of the child to the family / wider network
- When a Core Assessment and a need for support is identified to enable a child to remain with their family or alternative carers
- When a child is likely to be accommodated under Section 20 or made subject to Care Proceedings
- When a decision has been reached that a child cannot return to her / his previous carers and permanency arrangements are required
- When the Social Worker is highlighting a need for permanency planning and considering commencing legal proceedings
- As part of a Pre-birth Assessment
- Prior to a LAC review – if the child or young person is expressing a wish to return to their family network
- When a looked after child’s placement is at risk of breakdown
- When a parent/carer is making or considering making an application to Court to seek reunification of their child / children
The FGC will only proceed if someone with parental responsibility (PR) agrees to the referral. This verbal consent will need to be obtained by the referrer prior to submitting the referral. The FGC Coordinator will obtain further signed consent from someone with parental responsibility to gather and share information for the purpose of the FGC and to involve the child or young person within the process.
- Families who refuse to consent to share information
- No family identified
- No safe adult identified within the family network
How do Family Group Conferences work?
The meeting is arranged by an independent FGC Coordinator who meets everyone first to prepare for the meeting. Social Workers and other professionals attend part of the meeting:
- explain their worries about the child and what needs to be addressed by the family in their plan. This is done at the start of the meeting (stage 1)
- agree the family’s plan (provided it will keep the child safe) and confirm what help they will provide the family. This is done at the end of the meeting (stage 3)
The family are also given time in private to draw up their plan which must address the concerns and make sure the child is kept safe. This is done in the middle part of the conference (stage 2).
There are different stages in the FGC model:
Independent FGC Coordinator is appointed
Independent FGC Coordinator is appointed
Information sharing (stage 1)
Private family time (stage 2)
Plan presented and agreed (stage 3)
Implementation of the plan
Review of the plan
We are also able to offer mediation between parents, carers, young people and between parents and or family members, promoting the best outcome for their children. Mediation can help young people and their families to work through the difficult issues that they are experiencing, understand the issues causing the breakdown in their relationship or the dispute and then try to find solutions together. Mediation aims to clear up misunderstandings from the past and resolve communication difficulties from the present, promoting healthier relationships.
Mediation is a free, informal, confidential and voluntary process which involves an independent facilitator (Mediator) helping those in dispute to identify unmet needs, understand each other and to reach agreements that are acceptable to all.
Our service focuses on providing a co-mediation approach as it provides a number of additional benefits:
- Co-mediators can model co-operative and constructive communication
- Mediators bring different strengths, skills and experience to the mediation process. Co-mediators can share each other‘s resources, give an opportunity to consult and improve the mediation process
Mediators facilitate the meeting in an independent, neutral, non-judgemental and fair manner, ensuring that everyone is given equal time to talk and be listened to. Our Mediators ensure that the focus of the meeting remains on the needs of the child or young person and moving forward. Everyone’s safety is paramount throughout. This service can be accessed by families themselves, with verbal consent or referred in by a professional on the family’s behalf.
- Unable to offer legal advice (divorce/separation)
- Unable to arrange child maintenance payments
- Unable to arrange property and finance agreements
- Minimum age of 12
Advocacy for Children and Young People
As part of the FGC, consent will be obtained from someone with parental responsibility for the child/children to be seen privately by an Independent Advocate. Advocacy is about being the voice of the child or young person, to make sure that their rights are respected and their views and wishes are heard. Advocacy is about representing the views, wishes and needs of children and young people and ensuring that their views and wishes are genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives. The Advocate will support the child or young person to prepare for the FGC meeting, decide who and how their views and wishes will be shared and if they will attend all or part of the conference. If they choose not to attend, the Advocate will share their views and wishes on their behalf.
“Where children and young people have their own voice, advocacy means making sure children and young people are heard, where they have difficulty speaking up advocacy means providing help, where children and young people have no voice advocacy means speaking up for them.” (CROA’s training pack)
Advocacy can be offered to children & young people between the ages of 5 – 17. However, this can be extended to the age of 25, if there is a care leaver or vulnerable adult involved.
Making a referral?
To make a referral please complete the Family Group Conferencing & Mediation Referral Form below and email it to email@example.com or contact FGC Service on Tel 01752 306861.
If you have any questions or queries or would like to discuss the suitability of FGC or Mediation in relation to a particular family or would like to visit our venue and have a coffee, please contact Caroline Dungate (Practise Manager) or Paulette Almeida (Senior Coordinator) to discuss further.
Criteria for referral
To make an Early Help referral, you need to be a professional acting on behalf of the family. Verbal consent needs to be obtained from someone with parental responsibility (PR) prior to a referral being made.
- Family Group Conference Service leaflet
- Mediation Service leaflet
- Family Group Conferencing & Mediation Referral Form
- Family Group Conference & Mediation Consent, Permission and Data Protection
This service is provided by Plymouth City Council.