Q: Do I have to be there and stay for the family conference?
A: If you made the referral—or you are the case-holding social worker or deputising for them—your presence for the entirety of the FGC is vital. In the first part of the meeting, you will need to share with the family the local authority’s concerns and what support is available. Then in the final part, it is your responsibility to ensure the family’s plan adequately addresses those concerns. During the preparation period, the coordinator will be pleased to discuss with you your role and how you can help bring the FGC to a successful conclusion.
If you did not make the referral but have been invited as an agency who holds important information for the family group to understand and consider when making their plan, you can leave at the end of the first part of the meeting, which is for Information Sharing.
Q: Where will it be?
A: The venue is usually chosen by the family, and is often a community centre or similar close to where they live. The coordinator will work with the family to find out where they would feel comfortable. FGCs should not be held in children's services buildings or other statutory buildings that the family may find threatening or intimidating.
Q: What information should I share, what should I say?
A: On their first visit to you the coordinator will explain in detail what it would be helpful to include and share with the family. We will also provide you with an information sheet. By signing up to the FGC the family have agreed that relevant information may be shared, so the presentation at the FGC meeting should be focused and in line with the issues that led to the referral. The immediate family, should not hear 'new news' at the FGC, such as decisions made in professional meetings the day before.
Q: How long will the meeting last?
A: As an important family-led decision-making meeting, there can be no time limits on an FGC and the complexity of the referral/family will have a bearing on the time taken. However, some families/ family members will have gained a good grasp of the concerns from their preparatory contacts with the coordinator and will come well prepared with possible solutions. All participants are usually keen to move through the process as quickly as possible and on average an FGC meeting takes about 2-3 hours.
Q: Do the children have to be there?
A: Children should be included from the outset. This is a key strength and value of the FGC model - hearing the voice of the child/ren living in the household where there are concerns for their safety or well-being. Those with PR may decide they do not want their children to be present. This is their right and the child/ren themselves may not want to come to the meeting. However, children can often have a profoundly positive effect on adults at the meeting, allowing the meeting to remain truly child-focused and motivating the adults to work together. The coordinator will make every effort to involve the child/ren and to enable their voice(s) to be heard.
Q: What happens if there is conflict?
A: A lot of preparatory work takes place to avoid conflict during the meeting. But if the family feel that it would be very difficult to maintain a safe environment, they will make recommendations to manage the risk, which could involve excluding certain people. However, if there is any conflict, it is the coordinator’s job to manage this safely and effectively.
Q: Who arranges an advocate, if one is needed?
A: The coordinator will help vulnerable participants think through whether they want/ need a support person. It is then the responsibility of the coordinator or social worker (depending on local arrangements) to take this forward. That might involve identifying and preparing a support person (such as a teacher or youth worker) or making a referral to an advocacy service.
Q: If the children attend, how will they be kept safe?
A: This is the priority of any FGC meeting. The coordinator will follow Daybreak's Child Safeguarding policies and guidelines and make sure that not only the children but anyone attending is kept safe during the meeting.
Q: How long before we get the family plan?
A: It will be sent to you within 3-5 working days but can be sent quicker if exceptional circumstances dictate.
Q: What happens if certain members of the family or different sides of the family really don't get on?
A: The FGC coordinator will enable all family members to contribute towards the action plan by whatever method is most appropriate for that individual family's needs.