The number of people in the UK ageing without family support is increasing and will continue to do so.  Although not being able to rely on family as such, a person may nevertheless have the possibility of a network of people that care about them – perhaps neighbours, friends or members of faith communities.  Such networks can be a bit fragile and uncoordinated as people may not necessarily know each other and the person may feel uncomfortable asking others for support.  One way of bringing people together is to convene a Family and Group Conference where everyone involved can meet and share together – and work out how they can best support each other in different ways.  Often it is important that the person who may need support can also feel that they can offer something back in return, even if it is just sharing their company with others who enjoy being with them.

Family and Group Conferencing is a way of organising support that was developed in collaboration with the Māori community in New Zealand, but has then been taken up internationally.  It has tended to be used more often to organise support around children, but more recently it has been offered in some adult social care and mental health services in the UK.  Quite often it may be a group of people who are not family who come together – hence our new title of Family and Group Conferencing.   If you would like to see a bit of how this can work in action, have a look here  at the inspiring story of how Alice was able to bring her network together around her.

Ageing Without Children, Community Catalysts and Think Local Act Personal are co-hosting a free online event on Exploring ageing without children in the context of later life inequalities on Thursday September 27th.  To join the event, click here . This will provide an opportunity to discuss the challenges that people may  face, especially regarding the availability of support to ensure they can live the life they want to live. There will be a breakout session on social care where it could be interesting to explore Family and Group Conferencing as an option.

If you are interested in Family and Group Conferencing for adults, there is a new website that is highlighting developments in practice and what is going on in a national research project (funded by the National Institute for Health and Social Care Research) which is exploring how it works and what difference it can make in people’s lives.  You may also be interested in joining a discussion forum . (To register on this forum, you will need to click on ‘get a new LISTSERV password’).

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