In July 2020, this guidance was reviewed and updated throughout to reflect the introduction of 'Families Together Meeting' terminology in Blackpool.
- Legislative Framework
- Aims and Principles
- Circumstances where a Families Together Meeting Should be Considered
- Appendix 1: Summary of Roles and Responsibilities
What is a Families Together Meeting (FTM)?
A Families Together Meeting (FTM) is a family led decision making process, using the evidence based model of Family Group Conferencing. It is a transparent, culturally sensitive, solution focused and a restorative process. It provides families with an opportunity to come together to make safe and achievable plans for their children.
Family Group Conferencing principles are based on the fact that families have knowledge about themselves that professionals cannot easily match, and are therefore able to make better decisions in relation to themselves. This empowering process enables families to make decisions about their children given the opportunity and the information to do so.
2. Legislative Framework
The legislation that promotes Families Together Meetings and considers the wishes and feeling of children/young people include:
- Children Act 1989;
- Children Act 2004;
- Adoption Act 2002;
- Children and Young Person Act 2008;
- Human Rights Act 1998;
- Data Protection Act 2018.
Access to personal information is governed by the Data Protection Act 2018, UK GDPR and accompanying guidance, which should be complied with.If personal information needs to be shared at a Families Together Meeting, and this should usually be disclosed with consent. Only in exceptional cases, such as where a child is at immediate risk, or to prevent or following commission of a crime will this principle be overridden. Legal advice should be sought if there is concern about disclosure issues.
3. Guardians/Solicitors attendance at Families Together Meeting
Families Together Meetings are not legal processes, they are family processes designed to facilitate a way of giving families the chance to get together to try and make the best plan possible for the child/young person.
If a family member wishes to include a solicitor in a Families Together Meeting, the Families Together Coordinator will explain why a solicitor should not be part of the process.
The Families Together Coordinator must ensure that Guardians are informed of the request for the service and ensure they are provided with a copy of procedures for a Families Together Meeting. If the Guardian disagrees with the process, they should attempt to resolve any issues with the Social Worker. The Families Together Team can only accept changes to the process from the allocated Social Worker.A Guardian should only attend a Families Together Meeting if requested by the family. The Families Together Coordinator would need to clarify with the family what role the Guardian is to play at the meeting i.e. advocate for the child. A Guardian should not participate in private time.
3. Aims and Principles
The aims of a Families Together Meeting are:
- To help support families to care for their children;
- To reduce the number of children and young people that need to be Accommodated by the Local Authority by assisting families to look for solutions;
- To support the return of children from being in our care to their families;
- To help support families with arranging their own family time arrangements.
Families Together Meetings are based on the principle of working in partnership. The decision makers at Families Together Meetings are the family members, and not the professionals, and are based on the following assumptions:
- Families have more knowledge about themselves than professionals, which can lead them to make better decisions;
- Families are able to make good decisions about their children, provided they are given the opportunity and information to do so;
- Family difficulties can be resolved by involving friends and extended family;
- Families have the strongest potential and motivation to care for their own children;
- Families provide identity and continuity for their children's future;
- Families can make culturally sensitive plans;
- Children are generally best looked after by their own families;
- Children should be involved and appropriately participate in the decision making process.
A Families Together Meeting should be considered in situations where there is any risk that a child or young person may enter the care system. Families Together Meetings can be particularly helpful where:
- The extended family network is large and complicated;
- Where the family have not previously wanted to work with professionals or to give them contact with extended family;
- Where there are rifts or tensions within the extended family network that have made working together difficult;
The views of the child or young person are important in Families Together Meeting and they can be offered an advocate to help them give their views.
4. Circumstances where a Families Together Meeting Should be Considered
- To prevent a family breakdown, and who would otherwise be at risk of becoming a child in our care;
- To establish if extended family could support to help reduce the risks to a child on a Child Protection Plan;
- To establish if extended family could support to prevent a Child in Need Plan escalating to a Child Protection Plan;
- To support the rehabilitation home plan for a child in Our Care;
- To empower children to take an active role in plans for their future and to give them a voice.
A request for a Families Together Meeting would not be considered appropriate under the following circumstances.
- Isolated asylum seeking children;
- Families who have refused consent to share information that is relevant for the safeguarding of children;
- Families who have specified a preference for another format of decision making for the children i.e. through the court;
- Level of violence within the family is such that the risks to the participants in a Families Together Meeting could not be managed.
Family circumstances that will require special consideration include:
- Where a family has a history of intergenerational Sexual Abuse;
- Where there is an on-going Section 47 child protection enquiry;
- Where there is high risk of violence at the meeting;
- Where the ability of the main caregiver to make a decision is severely impaired due to a learning disability or their mental health.
5.1 Consultation Session
Referrals to the Families Together Team are made via a weekly Consultation Session which will be facilitated by the Families Together Team. During this session the referrer will be asked the following:
- Family details;
- How will the family benefit from a Families Together Meeting?
- What are the family's strengths?
- Reason for referral to the Families Together Team?
- What questions would the Families Together Meeting address?
- Identify the bottom line and non-negotiables;
- Highlight any known risks.
5.2 Views of the Child/Young Person and their family
- Each Families Together Meeting will have a Families Together Coordinator who will meet with both the child/young person and the family before the meeting and answer any questions that they may have. They will complete a genogram and discuss with the family who they want to attend the meeting, and agree a venue for the Families Together Meeting;
- At the heart of a Families Together Meeting is the child/young person. It is important that they are listened to and their views and ideas are given value by everyone that attends. The child/young person will remain the focus throughout the process;
- The Families Together Coordinator will talk to the young person or child about how they would like to contribute to the meeting and whether they would like an advocate to attend to assist them in putting forward their views. The young person may also choose to contribute by other means if they feel unable to attend the Meeting.
5.3 Extended Family/Friends
- The Families Together Coordinator will make contact with all wider family members and friends who have been identified by the main carers and child/young person;
- The Consultation Form will be shared with wider family/friends and they will be asked to consider how they may be able to contribute towards the Family Plan.
- Once the consultation session has taken place, the family will be allocated to a Families Together Worker within 48 hours;
- The Families Together Coordinator will contact the parents/person with PR within 72 hours from allocation to arrange meet with them as soon as possible;
- The Families Together Meeting will be arranged to take place within 4-6 weeks from the date of consultation;
- The Family Plan will be typed and distributed within 5 working days from the Families Together Meeting;
- A review Families Together Meeting will be held (if required) 4-6 weeks from initial Families Together Meeting.
A request for immediate/emergency support must be agreed via a Service Manager.
The Families Together Process is made up of four parts:
Stage 1 - The Request for a Families Together Meeting
A request for a Families Together Meeting, that meets Blackpool Council's criteria for a service will be made to the Families Together Team by the referrer through booking a consultation session, via the Families Together Team calendar.
The person(s) with Parental Responsibility (PR) must consent to the request for a Families Together Meeting and to the sharing of information. Verbal consent is acceptable at this stage.
Stage 2 - Preparation for the Families Together Meeting
The Families Together Coordinator in conjunction with the child/young person, those with PR and immediate carers, will identify the family's network, which can include close friends.
The Families Together Coordinator will discuss with the child whether they would like an advocate/supporter. The advocate/ supporter will then meet with the child/young person in preparation for the Families Together Meeting
The Families Together Coordinator will meet with the family and family network to discuss any anxieties or concerns they may have including how the meeting will be conducted. They will also encourage their attendance to the Families Together Meeting
The Families Together Coordinator will send out invitations and agree a time, date and venue. They will make the necessary arrangements in order for the meeting to go ahead.
There may be occasions when it is appropriate to exclude people from attending a Families Together Meeting. The decision to exclude a person from attending a Families Together Meeting will be based on:
- The child's best interest; or
- Where it would be considered contrary to the purposes of the Families Together Meeting.
Reasons to exclude someone from attending may include:
- A person who poses a risk to children;
- A person who has threatened physical harm or emotional harm to someone who is attending the Families Together Meeting;
- Someone who has a history of domestic violence and the victims of the violence have indicated that they may be too intimidated and afraid to express their ideas if the perpetrator is present;
- A person who is suffering a mental illness to such a degree that the Families Together Meeting would be unable to function;
- The child/young person has been a victim of abuse or neglect and the perpetrator's presence is likely to pose an emotional risk to the child/young people's wellbeing and ability to participate in the Families Together Meeting.
Stage 3 - The Families Together Meeting
- This is where staff from agencies give the family the information they have about services, resources and support that may be available to the child/young person and what is not negotiable. The Families Together Coordinator will chair this part of the meeting. They will make sure all present understand the purpose of the Meeting and the process and how the meeting will be conducted (for a summary of roles and responsibilities see Appendix 1: Summary of Roles and Responsibilities). They will share information contained within the consultation form highlighting the main issues that need to be addressed.
The child/young person, family and family network may also provide information and ask for clarification.
B. Private Family Time
- Staff and the Families Together Coordinator will not be present during this part of the meeting. The Families Together Coordinator, referrer and all professionals in attendance will leave the room allowing the family time to create a plan that addresses the issues raised information sharing stage.
C. Agreeing the Plan
The Families Together Coordinator, referrer and all professionals in attendance will rejoin the family to hear the plan. Any service, resources or support to make the plan work are discussed. The plan should be agreed by the referrer unless it places the child or young person at risk of Significant Harm.
It is important that any child/young person present has a clear understanding of what is decided and that their views are understood.
Arrangements for monitoring the plan and a review date will be agreed.
4. Stage 4 - Reviewing The Plan
A review of the family plan is important and provides a formal opportunity for the family to review progress together with the Social Worker/referrer. The Families Together Coordinator will chair reviews. Reviews should be arranged to take place within 4-6 weeks dependent up on the family's needs following the Families Together Meeting. A closure summary will need to be completed at the review by the Families Together Coordinator.
The stages of a review are similar to that of a Families Together Meeting:
- Information sharing;
- Private family time, if the family want family time, otherwise there will be a discussion around the original family plan;
- Agreeing the revised family plan;
- Planning further informal reviews - family will review and up date the plan themselves.
Families Together Meeting reviews will need to focus on:
- Have all the key actions in the family plan been completed? If not and are still relevant, what is needed to complete the actions?
- Are there any outstanding issues for the child/young person?
- Are there any new issues that have emerged that need to be considered?
- Any new actions required meeting the needs of the child/young person. What are the actions and who will complete them?
The Families Together Team will cease their involvement with families when the following has taken place:
- The Families Together Meeting Review has been completed and tasks agreed acted upon;
- The Families Together Meeting has been completed and no review is to take place;
- The family withdrew from the Families Together Meeting process;
- Consent was not given; or
- It is inappropriate to proceed due to safety reasons.
The Families Together Coordinator will complete the following tasks prior to closing a case:
- If appropriate meet with the family and child/young person and explain the reasons for ceasing their involvement;
- Complete a Family Together Team closure summary at the review meeting;
- Send written notification of the closure to the family members, child/young person, Social Worker/referrer and if different the current Social Worker and other professionals in attendance at the review.
On completion of a Families Together Meeting, the Families Together Coordinator will capture the views of the family members and child/young person to evaluate the service that they have received. A variety of practical methods are available for this to be gathered at the end of the Families Together Meeting.
Appendix 1: Summary of Roles and Responsibilities
The Role of the Family:
- Attend the Families Together Meeting;
- Develop a workable plan;
- Write their plan;
- Carry out and monitor the plan;
- Review the plan.
The Role of the Families Together Meeting Coordinator:
- Explore the wider Family Network;
- • Undertake preparatory work with the family and child/young person in preparation for the Families Together Meeting, work may include, genograms, direct work; encouraging engagement with Families Together Meeting process and to act as an advocate/supporter;
- Ensure that the child/young person is enabled to participate in the meeting at a level they are comfortable with;
- Inform the Guardian of a Families Together Meeting;
- Convene the meeting;
- Encourage and support attendance at the meeting;
- Chair the information giving stage;
- Enable the family to feedback the plan;
- Help clarify the plan with the family, if required;
- Ensure review arrangements are made;
- Distribute the plan to all in attendance at the Families Together Meeting.
The Role of the Social Worker:
- Request a Consultation Session with the Families Together Team. A Families Together Meeting should be considered as early as possible once concerns are identified;
- To attend the consultation session to discuss the family circumstances and aims of the Families Together Meeting with the duty Families Together Coordinator;
- Attend the Families Together Meeting;
- Provide clear information about concerns;
- Explain what is non-negotiable;
- Provide information about resources;
- Consider the plan developed by the family and monitor/review arrangements;
- Support the family to carry out the plan;
- Attend a review.
The Role of Other Professionals:
- Attend the Families Together Meeting, if requested by the family;
- Provide information about their services;
- Implement their part of the plan;
- Be part of the monitoring arrangements.
The Role of the Relevant Manager
- Agree and support the referral;
- Assist the referrer to make a clear agenda from the agency;
- Ensure the referrer is clear about resources;
- Agree/Validate the plan within the agreed timescale;
- Ensure implementation and monitoring is appropriate;
- Liaise with other relevant managers if necessary to address resource issues;
- Ensure lines of accountability.