Support for families

Family Meeting Service

You can't self-refer to this service

If you think it could help, please ask your social worker or another professional working with your family, i.e a teacher or family partner.

What is a family meeting?

All families can face a wide range of difficulties at times, sometimes the problems are complicated and extra help may be needed.

In cases where the issues relate to the care of children, it may be useful to hold a Family Meeting, which is a safe space where everyone can talk through concerns, then come up with a plan to make things better for everyone.  

Why hold a family meeting?

We believe that families know themselves best. A family meeting brings them together so they can feel supported to:

  • talk through their issues and understand what's happening in each other's lives
  • think about what support they need
  • resolve concerns 
  • create a plan which helps the child feel safe and supported

What can a family meeting achieve?

A family meeting can:

  • resolve child protection issues
  • deal with concerns about neglect
  • create care plans for children with significant disabilities
  • ensure that children whose parents are seriously ill continue to receive the care they need
  • create plans to support a parent with a mental or physical disability
  • create plans to help relatives care for children or young people
  • improve school attendance
  • address problems caused by divorce or separation i.e create co-parenting plans

What is the family meeting process?

Before the meeting:

  • a professional will make a referral to us, if the family is happy to participate
  • one of our coordinators will meet the parents or carers to explain why the meeting is happening, how it will work and what questions we'll ask
  • our coordinator will also ask the child or young person if they want to come to the meeting and if there's anything specific they want to be discussed
  • the family can decide when and where they'd like to meet and who they want to invite (our coordinator will arrange it and speak with all attendees beforehand)

All information shared with the coordinator will remain confidential unless it poses a risk to someone.

During the meeting, there are three stages which normally take around 6 weeks to complete.

Stage 1: information sharing

Everyone will introduce themselves. The referrer will explain to the family why they are worried about the young person and what needs to change. The family may also ask for any additional information they need to help in drawing up a plan to resolve the problems.

Stage 2: time to talk

The family will be given questions to answer and the coordinator and referrer will leave the room. Families can take breaks, ask for help and take as long as they need. This private family time will allow families to:

  • discuss the information provided
  • work out and agree a plan
  • decide who will be responsible for each aspect of the plan
  • decide what support they need
  • decide how they can check the plan is working
  • come up with a back-up plan in case it is needed 

Stage 3: agree on the plan

When the family is happy with their answers, the coordinator and referrer will come back in. They'll go through the plan and agree on any actions.

After the meeting

When the meeting's finished:

  • the plan will be written up by the coordinator and copies will be sent to everyone involved in creating the plan, which they should follow
  • if families can't agree on a safe plan it may be possible to hold another meeting; If this isn't possible, alternative arrangements to resolve the original concerns will be made by the referrer
  • the social worker and a nominated family member will check that the plan is working

Who will be at the meeting?

At the meeting will be:

  • the child or young person (if they want to come)
  • their parents or carers
  • anyone else they want to invite who can provide support or help to make positive changes happen, such as trusted friends or relatives
  • the lead professional working with the child/family, i.e a social worker or teacher
  • one of our coordinators; they're independent of us and don't make decisions about a young person's future
  • a translator or sign language interpreter, if needed

When and where will the meeting happen?

A family meeting can happen at any time when you or your family feel it would be good to talk about what is going on and make a plan to help things change for the child.

The coordinator will help to find a neutral venue close to where you live, e.g. a church hall, village hall or a children's centre.

If you prefer to hold the meeting online, the coordinator can organise a virtual meeting via Microsoft Teams

Who is the coordinator?

The coordinator will:

  • be an independent person
  • organise the meeting with you
  • meet with you before the meeting and visit the child / young person
  • help you decide who will be invited to the meeting and where it should be held
  • meet with the people you have given them to invite (this should include everyone you would find helpful to have at the meeting)
  • be sensitive about different religions and cultures which will help them to make sure the meeting is as comfortable and as easy to understand as possible; they can arrange an interpreter if needed
  • make sure that everyone who is at the meeting follows some basic ground rules; they make sure everyone knows that they are there to make a plan that will help support the child being discussed
  • will help everyone to stay calm and make sure everyone has an opportunity to have their say

Contact information

Telephone: 0300 300 5788
Email: familymeetingservice@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk