Randomised controlled trial of Family Group Conferencing at pre-proceedings stage

Children whose families were referred for Family Group Conferencing (FGC) are significantly less likely to go into care, according to results from the world’s largest study of its kind, conducted by Coram and published today.

The study, funded by Foundations – What Works for Children’s Social Care, was the first Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT)* of FGCs to have been carried out in the UK and the largest RCT of FGCs carried out in the world.

FGCs are meetings led by family members to plan and make decisions for children who are at risk, with the aim of creating and agreeing a plan to keep the children safe. The study found that children whose families were referred for an FGC before care proceedings began were significantly less likely to be in care twelve months after entering pre-proceedings (the stage before care proceedings, where parents or adults with parental responsibility are informed that the local authority will begin care proceedings if specific actions are not taken) than those whose families were not referred for an FGC.

Over 21 months, the evaluation involved over 2,500 children across 21 local authorities in England and found that children whose families received the support of an FGC referral were less likely to go into care than those who were not. Among children in families referred for FGCs, 36.2% went into care, compared to 44.8% children in families not referred for FGCs.

The study also found that families referred for FGCs were less likely to be taken to court for decisions about their care. By the end of the study, only three in five children (59%) referred for FGCs had care proceedings issued, compared with 72% of children who did not get a referral.

*A Randomised Control Trial is an evaluation method where people are randomly assigned to programmes or service-as-usual. RCTs are often more able than other kinds of evaluation to say whether programmes, rather than other factors, are the cause of outcomes.