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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). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. 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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How are family group conferences used in child protection and during a pre-proceedings process?

When there are child protection concerns, children’s services might consider it is not safe for a child to be at home. In this situation, they should work with families to explore other safe options. This includes exploring whether a child can live safely with someone else in their family and friends’ network. This means it is important to involve wider family at an early stage. A family group conference can be an extremely useful way of doing this

Government statutory guidance says:

‘It is important that wider family are identified and involved as early as possible as they can play a key role in supporting the child and help parents address identified problems. Where problems escalate and children cannot remain safely with parents, local authorities should seek to place children with suitable wider family members where it is safe to do so.’

And that:

‘Children’s services should consider making a referral for a family group conference ‘if they believe there is a possibility that the child may not be able to remain with their parents… unless this would place the child at risk.’

Volume 1 Children Act 1989: Court orders and pre-proceedings’

Children’s services must have regard this statutory guidance. The courts have said this means statutory guidance should be followed unless there is good reason not to (case of R v Islington LBC ex p Rixon [1998] 1).

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