Rise in Family Group Conferences to protect children from harm

Posted on: 18 July 2016

More families are using family group conferences as a way of managing their difficulties and to address concerns that authorities have about their child’s safety.

Devon County Council is reporting a significant rise, some 233 per cent since 2012/13, in the numbers of Family Group Conferences (FGC); a process that helps families work through and overcome difficulties in their circumstances that put their child, or children, at risk of harm.

The conferences are led by family members and usually attended by the young person at the centre of the concern, or an advocate on their behalf, and care professionals.

There purpose is to share information and for the family members to plan and make decisions together for the child, in order to solve the concerns held by professionals.

Cllr James McInnes“The sooner the family can address those risks, the better the outcome for the child,” says the Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for children’s social care, Cllr James McInnes.

“They are a proven way of helping families who are experiencing difficulties in their lives to get back on track, and their children out of potential risk of harm. Some families need help to do this. They allow the means for families to work through their difficulties and to stay together.”

Devon families were involved with 180 FGCs last year, a considerable rise from the 54 that took place in 2012/13.

Conferences play an important part in the Council’s expanding range of support to families. Its Family Solutions Service is growing, and the Council has appointed more independent coordinators to work in partnership with families. And it’s broadening the range of approaches it uses to support families.

“Family Group Conferences are not the right approach for every situation,” says Cllr McInnes.

“The Council provides a wide range of support to families in many different ways, and we’re expanding this even further so that families can get the right support, and as soon as possible.”

Families who have gone through the process say FGCs work. Two families from North Devon, who wished to remain anonymous, said that ‘it was helpful to have everyone talking’; that they ‘felt listened to and all treated equally’; and that the FGC ‘helped by keeping things moving forward and being positive.’

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