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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Family group conference

A family group conference is a family-led decision-making meeting. A child’s wider family and support network come together to develop a plan to support a child and keep them safe. This network may include grandparents, aunts and uncles and sometimes close family friends. The meeting is supported and facilitated by a trained and skilled independent coordinator. They help the family prepare for the meeting and attend to support.

A family group conference can be used in any situation where a child and family need additional support. For example, when a child cannot live at home or is at risk of going into care.

A family group conference is voluntary. A social worker might suggest it is a good idea. But a family cannot be forced to have a family group conference.

There are family group conference services in most parts of the country. The family group conference meeting is in three stages:

  • In the first stage the social worker (and perhaps other professionals if they are working with the family) will give the family information about the child’s needs and what will keep them safe, and tell them what support children’s services can provide.
  • The whole family then meet on their own to make a plan for their child (the plan must take into account any safety concerns explained by the social worker).
  • In the third stage the family present their plan to the referrer. The family should be supported to carry out their plan (unless it would place the child at risk).

For more information see our advice pages on:

Family group conferences: advice for families

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