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Project to understand how local authorities use Family Group Conferences launches

A new project launches to understand how local authorities collect and report on use of Family Group Conferences to help build a picture of access across England.

11/04/24

Project to understand how local authorities use Family Group Conferences launches

A new project to better understand the data that local authorities are collecting on the use of Family Group Conferences (FGCs) has been launched.

This project – undertaken by a partnership of organisations including Foundations, Coram, Family Rights Group and Daybreak – is claimed to be “a significant stride for the future of FGCs”.

FGCs are a decision-making meeting in which a child's wider family network comes together to plan around meeting the needs of the child or children who are at risk of harm or abuse, ensuring the voice of the child is heard where possible. They were introduced to the UK from New Zealand in the 1990s and research has shown that high-quality FGCs can deliver better outcomes for children, including supporting them to remain safely in their family.

The project will identify methods for routinely collecting data on which families are offered and participate in Family Group Conferencing at pre-proceedings stage, and their outcomes. The organisations involved say this will help build a picture of FGC access across England, where little is currently known.

Debbie Burns, CEO at Daybreak, a charity working alongside families in the process, said she sees the positive impact that they can have on children, young people, and the adults who care for them.

“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. “

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.

Max Stanford, Head of Impact and Evaluation at Coram, said that building a picture of the data around FGCs is critical to supporting them.

“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.”

As part of the national kinship care strategy, Foundations is working with the government and the sector to encourage all local authorities throughout England to use FGCs when appropriate, noting that FGCs are particularly cost-effective, with a saving of £960 per child referred in the first year.

The project 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. Recommendations will be co-designed with local authorities and experts, and are due in the middle of this year.

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