Foundations launches project with Coram to understand how local authorities collect and report on use of Family Group Conferences

  • 4 April 2024

Foundations (the What Works Centre for Children & Families) has announced a new project to better understand the data that local authorities are collecting on the use of Family Group Conferences (FGCs). The work is being undertaken in partnership with Coram, Family Rights Group, Daybreak, and Data to Insight.

This project represents a significant stride for the future of FGCs – a family-led decision-making process, in which the wider family, friends and community network come together to plan for a child who is at risk of harm or abuse, ensuring the voice of the child is heard where possible.

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. This will help build a picture of FGC access across England, which does not currently exist.

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. 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 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.

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.”

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.”

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.”