Currently used more widely in children and family services, Family and Group Conferencing offers a radically different way of making plans – one that puts the person and the people that matter to them at the centre of the process. Building on the experience of some pioneering services, there is growing interest in developing its use in adult social care and mental health – and this is the focus of a new research project led by Professor Jerry Tew at the University of Birmingham, which is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research.
What happens in Family and Group Conferencing is that an independent coordinator meets with everyone involved to help them prepare a get-together (called a Conference) where they will have a chance to work out what they think may work best. If appropriate, someone can be offered the support of an advocate to help them during the process. Conferences can take place anywhere that suits the people involved – or can be on-line if people prefer. Typically, the scene is set with some informal activity such as coming together to share food. There can then be an opportunity to discuss and clarify ideas with any professionals or agencies that may be important in organising appropriate support. At the heart of the process is ‘Private Time’ in which a person and their family or network can come up with their own ideas as to what would enable them to have the best life possible – individually and collectively.
Family and Group Conferencing fits well with other co-productive or strengths-based approaches that put people in the ‘driving seat’ and maximise their capability to live the sort of life that they want to live.
We are delighted that Community Catalysts will be hosting a national Research and Practice Network for anyone interested in learning more about this approach, and/or in growing and developing Family and Group Conferencing services. Community Catalysts (https://www.communitycatalysts.co.uk) are a national social enterprise organisation dedicated to promoting initiatives that enable people who need support to be part of strong, inclusive, communities with real opportunities to connect, create and contribute – and they currently host the national network for Local Area Coordination. If you would like to find out more, we have information, videos and links on our new website – so just click on https://fgcforadults.org.uk .