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New project to build picture of family group conference access across England

Published: 4th April 2024

3 minute read

We are excited to announce a new project to better understand the data that local authorities are collecting on the use of Family Group Conferences (FGCs). The project is being led by Foundations and Coram, in partnership with Family Rights Group, Daybreak, and Data to Insight.

A family group conference is a structured process where a child’s family members, friends and community network take the lead in making a plan to support their welfare.

Foundations previously partnered with Coram and Daybreak to carry out the first Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) of FGCs in the UK, and the largest RCT of FGCs in the world. The evaluation showed that children whose families were referred for an FGC were less likely to go into care than those who were not. It also found that children of families referred for an FGC were less likely to be subject to care proceedings. The study identified a saving of £960 per child referred in the first year.

Some local authorities offer family group conferences on a limited scale. Family Rights Group is calling for every family to be offered a family group conference where there are concerns about the care or protection of their child.

The project announced today will contribute to improved understandings of what FGC data local authorities currently collect and what monitoring systems they use, which will inform the development of options for routinely collecting this information across England. This work will be undertaken alongside local authorities and key stakeholders. Families who have participated in FGCs will also be consulted. Recommendations will be co-designed with local authorities and experts, and are due in the middle of this year.

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive at Family Rights Group, says:

“Family Rights Group has been a champion for family group conferences since we introduced them to the UK from New Zealand in the 1990s. The evidence from research and practice is clear. By galvanising the strengths of families, high quality FGCs can deliver better outcomes for children, including supporting them to remain safely in their family. As a partner on this project, we want to see FGCs embedded as a central part of the child welfare system. They should be an offer for all families in need of care and protection.”

Dr Jo Casebourne, Chief Executive at Foundations, says:

“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with partners and local authorities to spearhead this important work on the use of Family Group Conferences. As we embark on the next phase for FGC rollout, a thorough understanding of current offerings and uses is paramount”.

Max Stanford, Head of Impact and Evaluation at Coram, says:

“Having undertaken the randomised controlled trial of Family Group Conferences for families in pre-proceedings with Daybreak, we are very excited to be partnering again with Daybreak, as well as Family Rights Group, and Data to Insight, to understand how local authorities collect and report on Family Group Conferences. This is critical to building the evidence base and helping support local authorities to continue to offer Family Group Conferences.”

Debbie Burns, CEO at Daybreak, says:

“As a charity working alongside families, we see the positive impact that Family Group Conferencing can have on children, young people, and the adults who care for them daily. Having a greater understanding of their use and outcomes nationally will better enable organisations and Local Authorities to ensure more families can be offered timely solution-focused support. We are pleased to be continuing to collaborate with partners to deliver this significant project.”

Find out more about the project here

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