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.

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

Family and Group Conferencing 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.

This project will focus on: 

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

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 a 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’.

Output and Impact

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.

Research Team

The research is led by Professor Jerry Tew with Phil Kinghorn as co-PI 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. The Research Fellows on the project are Sharanya Mahesh and Lefan Liu. 

Funder and partner organisations

The project is funded through a research grant from the National Institute for Health and Care Research and will run from November 2022 to July 2025.

Partners include: University of Edinburgh, LSE, Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Cardiff University, Community Catalysts CIC, Vicky Nicholls, Pete Marsh, Tim Fisher, Miranda Johnson, Miranda Johnson, Clenton Farquharson and TK Vincent. 

Further details

Find out more about the research project and associated activities 

Subscribe to the discussion forum on the Jiscmail platform. 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. 

If you wish to make direct contact with the research team, you can contact us at