The Family Group Conferencing (FGC) & Mediation Service is based in Plymouth and offers a range of options to support families in times of difficulty.
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
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.
Please note that the processes are voluntary and consent can be withdrawn at any stage throughout the process.
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:
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.
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.
Mediation is available to Plymouth families and can be accessed with your consent, by referral from a professional who is working with you or your children.
Consent is required for all involved and can be withdrawn at any time
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 and 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.
If you have any comments about Family & Community Solutions or suggestions about how we can make things better we want to hear from you. In the first instance, please contact the office on 01752 306861. We hope problems can be sorted out quickly and easily by speaking with the person you normally see from social services, but if you'd like to speak to someone different, you can complain to our Customer Relations Team.
How to complain
If you're a child with a social worker you can complain using our contact card system - get a card from your Social Worker or call free on 0800 068 1249.
You can complain:
We'll look into your complaint and let you know what happens next.
Advocacy can be provided to support children and young people as part of the FGC process. Where Learning difficulties (LD) diagnosed or undiagnosed vulnerabilities exist, specialist support can be requested via the appropriate agencies
How can a Family Group Conference (FGC) help my family?
The FGC can help bring families together to make a safe plan for the welfare of the child. The success, direction and appropriate plan will rely on the empowerment of your family to come together and agree on a positive way forward. This process helps empower families to achieve the best outcomes for children.
How long does the FGC conference process take to complete?
Following signed consent from a parent/carer to completion of FGC conference, we try to ensure that the process will take no longer than 20 working days (28 days). This can be flexible depending on the families availability.
Can parents/carers self-refer in for an FGC conference?
Parents/carers are not able to self-refer in for an FGC Conference themselves, however they can request that an involved professional make a referral on their behalf.
How can I find out more about the FGC & Mediation Service prior to making an early help referral?
Families can call and talk to the Practice Manager, Caroline Dungate, or Senior Co-ordinator, Paulette Almeida, and find out more information on how we can support you as a family. Pop into our office for an informal chat, see what service is right for you and enjoy a coffee.
Our office is open Monday to Fridays, from 8.30am to 4.30pm.
Our Coordinators work flexibly between 8am to 8pm.