Family group conferences (FGCs)should be used
by all local authorities, according to the Association of Directors
of Social Services president Mike Leadbetter.
Speaking at a Family Rights Group conference
in London last week Leadbetter said he was “passionately committed”
to family group conferences and asked: “Why are not all local
authorities using them?”
FGCs are decision-making forums where the
wider family makes plans and decisions for children in need of care
and protection. Since they were introduced from New Zealand about
10 years ago, they have been valued as a means for families to
question councils about whether the services provided meet the
Leadbetter said: “The concepts of engagement,
involvement of the family, and the appropriate movement away from
the power base of professionals, all have profound implications for
social work. FGCs shift power from professionals to family
Currently, 58 per cent of local authorities in
England and Wales offer the service or are planning to do so,
according to the FRG.
Family Rights Group chief executive Robert
Tapsfield said the family conferences were a “success story”, but
42 per cent of councils had no service, and in some of the rest,
service was limited.
“Despite its success, despite all the research
that says it works and is effective, despite its value base of
supporting and strengthening families, which is central to this
government’s agenda, it still remains at the margins. That is not
good enough,” said Tapsfield.
“Families are entitled to FGCs. There always
ought to be an FGC when children would otherwise come into the care
system. We are still a long way from achieving that,” he added.
The calls also received backing from Hilton
Dawson, Labour MP for Lancaster and Wyre and a former social
worker, who is chairperson of the all-party parliamentary group for
children and looked-after children.
He told the conference it was important to
develop FGCs because “families have an intelligence, ability and
potential that has never been fully tapped”.
He added: “The principles of FGCs are sound
social work practice. It’s what families do, they help each other
out when needed.”