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Family and Group Conferencing Research

The FGC Research and Practice Network is funded through a research grant from the National Institute for Health and Care Research as part of a national project entitled:

Family and Group Conferencing in adult social care and mental health: exploring how it works and what difference it can make in people’s lives.

The Principal Investigator is Professor Jerry Tew at the University of Birmingham.

On this page you will be able to find:

  • Details of the research that we will be carrying out
  • The Research Team
  • Our reports and publications as they come out
  • Information about events and consultations
  • Information on other FGC research and evaluation studies – and links to publications.

Deliberative Forum: firming up our understanding of how Family and Group Conferences (FGC) for adults work

Crowndale Centre, Camden – Thursday 7th September 2023

In the Deliberative Forum, we invited a range of people with knowledge and experience in relation to Family and Group Conferences to check out and take forward our emerging understanding of how FGCs for adults work, and what differences they can make in people’s lives.  Most importantly, this included people with experience of having a conference, as well as co-ordinators, managers and those who may refer people to FGC services.

During the forum, we shared both, what we thought we know from our analysis of the literature, results from a national survey and stakeholder interviews, and what we had identified as key questions where we needed to understand things better.   We asked participants to deliberate on these questions in small groups.  Out of this, we will distil our current best understanding – or Programme Theory – as to how FGCs work.  In particular we were interested in

  • Describing and characterising the practice model for adults’ FGCs
  • What sorts of positive outcomes (for people and their networks) may be achieved through having FGCs
  • How FGCs work in an adults’ context and what ingredients lead to successful outcomes
  • For whom FGCs may work best and in what situations – including how applicable and acceptable they may be in different cultural and social contexts.

We have summarised what we think we already know and captured the collective wisdom that came out of our deliberations in the Report of our discussions – and we also have a selection of short videos as people fed back from their groups.

We will develop and test out or initial Programme Theory for FGC for adults in the next stage of our research by tracking the experience of a sample of people and their networks across our different research sites.

Here is the full report –Family and Group conferences for adults – summary report of the Deliberative Forum process

If you would like to contribute your thoughts or feedback, please email Sharanya Mahesh on or join the discussion on our online forum by subscribing to Jiscmail- You can set up an account by simply clicking on the link provided. This platform is also used to connect with others who are interested in FGCs for adults, initiate discussions on relevant topics or to ask questions relating to FGC research and practice.

Here are some videos discussing feedback from the process

Family and Group Conferencing in adult social care and mental health: exploring how it works and what difference it can make in people’s lives.

The research will run from November 2022 to July 2025.

It will focus on:

  1. How and where FGC is being offered in adult social care and mental health services, and what are its key processes and mechanisms.
  2. Evaluating both shorter and longer term impact of FGC for a sample of individuals and their family networks.

The research team

The research is led by Professor Jerry Tew at the University of Birmingham with colleagues from the universities of Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Sheffield and the London School of Economics, researchers with lived experience of social care and health services and colleagues from the field of practice.

Research Fellow: Sharanya Mahesh, University of Birmingham

Background to the research

Family and Group Conferencing (FGC) is a relatively new approach in adult social care.  It offers an inclusive approach in which people can plan for their care and support on their terms – and which can mobilise the strengths and resources that may potentially exist within people’s family and social networks.  It can also be used where there are safeguarding concerns or where people may require support for their decision making.  It therefore fits well with wider policy and practice developments around strengths-based practice

Originating in New Zealand, FGC has become established as a practice in Children and Family services in the UK. It involves bringing together an individual with family and/or members of their social network in order to decide on a plan whereby to resolve a current difficulty or challenge – e.g. around organising support, enabling recovery or ensuring safety.  It is facilitated by an independent co-ordinator and comprises 3 stages:

i) preparatory work with the individual and each family/network member to elicit their involvement and help them to establish what they each want out of the process;

ii) the Conference itself which usually starts with information sharing and discussion with any professionals involved before there is ‘private family time’ in which the individual and family/network members share ideas and decide on a plan, and

iii) subsequent review meeting(s) to check out how the plan is working and adapt it if appropriate.

A number of local evaluations of adults and mental health FGC services have been conducted in the UK, and FGC has also been included in wider studies of family inclusive and preventative approaches in adult social care.  Overall, findings have tended to be positive, and a consistent finding is that FGC can enable people to resolve difficulties relating to care and support arrangements – often by mobilising support arrangements that involve a wider ‘circle of support’ and/or by resolving issues between people which had made it harder for them to pull together. Plans devised by the person and their network can reduce or delay the need for more costly and intensive service provision, or can employ care services in ways that are more acceptable and empowering.  In general, there are strong indications that the approach can be more effective when offered ‘upstream’ when difficulties are first emerging, rather than being used as a last resort.

Many individuals and families have reported that they were empowered by the process (putting them ‘in the driving seat’), and that, following the FGC process, the individual had a better quality of life with a wider network of social capital and support.  Mechanisms of change may, in some instances, include mobilising and remobilising social networks, the opportunity to restore damaged or estranged interpersonal relationships, or to increase understanding within them (including the sharing of shameful experiences).  However, there can also be concerns that FGC processes – and ownership by the individual with support from their family/network – could become subverted by a professional system that, directly or indirectly, seeks to set the agenda for the Conference process.


The research project

The first phase of the research has involved using an online survey to scope current services and planned service developments across the UK, how practice models are evolving, and to whom services are being offered.  We have also reviewed the international literature relating to FGC for adults in order to develop a preliminary understanding of how FGCs work, who do they work best for and in what contexts, and what are seen as the sorts of outcomes that may be achieved by having FGCs.

Following on from this we will conduct interviews with key informants in order to gain a deeper understanding of how services are working.  At the end of this process, we will be hosting a Deliberative Forum to firm up an initial Programme Theory that sets out:

  • the sorts of positive outcomes that may be achieved by having FGCs
  • the mechanisms and processes which may be key to achieving such outcomes, and
  • contextual factors in relation to people’s situations (and fit with wider social care and health services) that may influence whether or not positive outcome may be achieved and sustained.

The second phase of the research will involve tracking the experience of samples of individuals and their family/social networks as they receive FGC services in 3 research sites where there are relatively well-established FGC services for adults and/or mental health.  This will include both those that proceed to having a conference and those that do not (for whatever reason). Alongside this, there will be an analysis of costs and consequences (including subsequent use of social care and health services) as against a matched comparator group receiving ‘service as usual’.

We will use the findings from this research to inform a consensus consultative process, using a Delphi methodology, to refine our Programme Theory as to what are the key mechanisms and contextual factors that are important in underpinning an effective FGC process for adults.  This will then be used as the basis for developing fidelity criteria, refining practice guidance and developing service standards.

If you would like to find out more about the research project and associated activities

please subscribe to the discussion forum on the Jiscmail platform at . This is an inclusive forum for practitioners, researchers, people with experience of services, and anyone else with an interest in Family and Group Conferencing for Adults.  This will give you access to information, resources  and invitations to participate in networking events – and the opportunity to communicate with a wider community of practice.  The forum is co-hosted by Community Catalysts and the research team. Information for Jisc subscribers is at


If you wish to make direct contact with the research team, you can contact us at FGC-ADULTS@JISCMAIL.AC.UK.