Tulip Foundation started a new programme on exchange of practices on Family Group Conferencing (FGC) with partners Gironde Departmental Council from France, Family Rights Group from the UK and NeuKolln von Berlin from Germany. The project is co-funded by Erasmus+ programme of the EU. The activities are aimed at creating a European reference value on practicing FGC with the help of a guide to good practices; drafting of quality standards and practical resources designed to ensure an efficient and sustainable long term approach; sharing the best knowledge on measuring the results and impact of FGC for children and families and for local and national authorities in terms of financial stakes; lobbing decision-makers on local, national and European levels for the advantages of the approach and, more generally, of the advantages of developing innovative policies which include families further in the decision-making process. The partners are also interested in exploring new possible fields of application for FGC (other than child welfare). The project team plans to disseminate and communicate the results of the European project in each partner country and via the European FGC Network; to support the Gironde departmental Council’s future training plan for professionals in the field of social action in preparation for the application and generalisation of FGC in Gironde in the medium and long term. While working together for the next two years the partners are looking forward to broaden the knowledge and application of FGC for all partner countries in connection with the different public policies; to develop skills and professional positions with a view to encouraging families’ participation in support and decisions that concern them.
Gironde departmental Council is a full-function French local authority with mandatory competences in health and welfare (competences, notably including child welfare, promotion of health, integration, fight against instability and exclusion, social development and autonomy for elderly and disabled people), secondary schools, culture, facilities in rural areas, fire safety and protecting the environment. With a population of 1,505,517, Gironde is the largest Department in Metropolitan France, covering 10,725 sq. km or nearly 2% of French territory. As the main authority for social action in the region, the Gironde departmental Council allocates 52% of its budget to individual solidarity measures, i.e. €585 million allocated to social action - child welfare, elderly people, disabilities, health and prevention.
Family Rights Group is a national charity serving England and Wales. It is governed by a trustee board and is managed by a chief executive with the support of a senior management team. Formed in 1974, Family Rights Group is the charity that works with parents whose children are in need, at risk or are in care and members of the wider family who are raising children unable to remain at home. FRG also campaigns for families to have their voice heard, be treated fairly and get help early to prevent problems escalating. It leads the policy work of the Kinship Care Alliance and champion policies and practices that keep children safe in their family network. In the early 1990s FRG pioneered the introduction of family group conferences (FGCs) in the UK and has set quality assurance standards for FGCs. Funded by the Department for Education FRG has run a programme of capacity building events and consultancy support to assist English local authorities to set up or commission sustainable child welfare FGC services. A latest audit found that 75% of English local authorities now run or commission FGCs. The organisation is a member of the European FGC Network and has undertaken FGC training and development work internationally including in Sri Lanka, Italy and China.
Bezirksamt NeuKolln von Berlin is one of the Berlin’s 12 districts. Some 330.000 citizens form more than 150 nationalities are located in the borough NeuKolln. The services for the public are organised by the local authority. Often the administration only control the tax funded NGOs. The NGOs mainly work on the operational level. The department for youth is responsible for family supporting services. The main task is to create, manage and finance offers for children and their parents. For the last 10 years the Bezirksamt NeuKolln has experience with Family Group Conferences (FGC). FGC is offered to families by the Children welfare offices. Social workers from the Children Welfare offices work together with FGC coordinators. These are financed by the local authority and work in non-public organisations. In Berlin FGC is a relative new method. The implementation is a process of cooperation between the Children welfare office and the non-governmental organisations in a longer term. There is a network for FGC in Berlin and in Germany as well as in Europe. The Bezirksamt NeuKolln works also together with Universities of applied sciences and has experiences in staff training.
The Gironde Departmental Council, Bordeaux, France organised with its partners Family Rights Group from the United Kingdom, Tulip Foundation from Bulgaria and City of Stuttgart, Germany, a workshop dedicated to the European Week of Regions and Cities on the theme: "A social innovation: the Family group conferencing method (FGC)". It took place on 8 October at the Representation of the Nouvelle Aquitaine Region in Brussels.
FGC is a method of supporting families and people who have experienced social difficulties. This innovative approach promotes the active participation of families (empowerment) and their environment as a resource for the development and decision of a co-constructed action plan to solve their problem. It is especially effective in limiting the placement of children in care. It is used in many fields regardless of the problem - intra-family relations, child protection, disability, old age, difficulties in school, housing, social and professional integration... The concrete results of an ERASMUS + project on the family group conferencing including four countries with different cultures and social systems.
JeanLuc Gleyze, President of Gironde County Council opened the forum. Clélia Phiquepal from Direction des Interventions et du Développement Social presented the project.
Sean Haresnape from Family Rights Group spoke about the values and the principles of FGC method. He then presented the application of the model in the UK and the Lifelong Links programme for young people leaving institutions.
Maria Petkova from Tulip Foundation talked about the universality of the method including the various fields of application and type of users of FGC. The second part of her presentation was about the application of FGC in Bulgaria and especially with Roma families.
Heike Hoer from the City of Stuttgart made a presentation about the FGC method from a social work perspective and its application in Stuttgart and in Germany.
A number of special guests presented their organisations and policies - Irene Bertana from COFACE Families Europe, Axelle Devaux from RAND Europe and the online European Platform for Investing in Children (EPIC), Maria-Anna Paraskeva from the European commission.