Family Welfare Conference

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What is a Family Welfare Conference?

A Family Welfare Conference is a family meeting that is held when a family is in need of support for any reason or when there is concern about the welfare of a child/young person. Essentially this type of meeting assists the family to make a plan to help a child/young person (or children) within a family network, to ensure that they are looked after and safe.

A Family Welfare Conference enables the extended family members and the young person to come together with the services involved (eg social worker, teacher, project worker) to sort out any issues that may be causing difficulties. It puts a plan in place that is designed to safeguard the well-being and development of the child/young person.

Who Organises a Family Welfare Conference?

Meetings are arranged by the Family Welfare Conference Coordinator, who is both independent and separate from the Social Work Service or other agencies.

Coordinator meeting the family

The agency who asked the family to have the Family Welfare Conference (e.g HSE Social Work Department) writes a short report providing:

  • background information
  • identifying the family strengths
  • any problem/issues that exist
  • what help is available
  • what the family needs to think about.

The Coordinator can assist the referrer with writing the report if needed. The Coordinator meets the family and the young person in their home or in the office to discuss this report.

It is important for the Coordinator to meet everyone on an individual basis as they may have different views and opinions.

Meeting everyone before the Family Welfare Conference also prepares them for what to expect at the meeting.

When the Coordinator has discussed the report with the young person and family members they may offer written comments to the Family Welfare Conference in response to the report if they wish. These comments can be read at the meeting if requested.

What happens at a Family Welfare Conference?

The Family Welfare Conference is for the young person, family members, social worker/childcare worker/ other agencies to work together to decide on a plan, to ensure that the child (or children) are well cared for and safe. The meeting is divided into three parts:

  • Part 1: Information and Advice
  • Part 2: Private Family Time
  • Part 3: Agreeing the Plan

Confidentiality

In order to protect the privacy of the young person and family involved, all Family Welfare Conferences are confidential. All those in attendance are asked not to discuss the issues addressed in the meeting with anybody not involved in the Family Welfare Conference.

When the Coordinator meets the family members and young person, the report of the agency who made the referral is shown to the family, but copies of this report are not given prior to the meeting. Copies of the report will be given to all people attending the Family Welfare Conference, however after the Family Welfare Conference is concluded the reports are collected by the Coordinator. This is to protect the privacy of the family and young person.

If is essential that parent(s) and extended family members attend and participate fully in the Family Welfare Conference, this is an opportunity for your family to meet with the services involved to come up with the best plan possible.

The child/young person will have a chance to say what they think. They can decide whether to stay and listen or to be in a room nearby, for part or all of the meeting.
Every effort will be made to organise the meeting in a way that they are comfortable and happy with.

Part 1: Information and Advice

The agency who asked the family to have the Family Welfare Conference (e.g HSE Social Work Department) shares the report providing background information, identifying the family strengths, any problem/issues that exist, what help is available and what the family needs to think about.
The parent(s)/carers and young person will have discussed the report with the coordinator before the meeting.
Time is given to discuss the information in the report and to respond to any questions which other agencies may have at this point.
The families concerns and questions can also be raised.Part 2: Private Family Time

Once the information has been discussed fully, family members are left in private to discuss the information shared and to make a family plan.
The aim of this part of the meeting is for the family to work together to decide on their plan, to ensure that the child (or children) are well cared for and safe. The family can take as much time as needed to do this and the Coordinator is always on hand, to offer support and guidance, if needed.
The family should try to agree on what is the safest and best plan for the child, this could include details such as
members of the extended family helping out.

Additional support from services like Social Workers or other services

  • where the child will live
  • who can help look after him/her
  • what other help or resources might be needed.

Part 3: Agreeing the Plan

The other services involved rejoin the meeting.
The family will discuss the plan that they have agreed on with the other services. The Social Worker and other agencies will support the plan, unless they feel it places the child/young person at risk. The Coordinator will write the plan as agreed with all those present at the meeting.

This part of the meeting also looks at who is going to help monitor and review the plan.

It is not always possible for a family to agree a plan. In such instances, the Coordinator advises the referrers accordingly. There is then no further contact from the Family Welfare Conference service and the referrers will continue to work with the family as before, and may explore other options with them.

Information for the Child/Young Person

What is a Family Welfare Conference all about?

It is a meeting with you and your family, other relatives and the agencies involved who are concerned about you and your family. The aim of the meeting is to help to make things better for you and your family.

Can I go to the Family Welfare Conference?

Yes, the meeting is about you, so it is very important that you are there. However, it would not be appropriate for young children to attend the meeting. The Coordinator will meet with the parent(s)/carers to discuss the participation of the child/young person.

You will have a chance to say what you think. You can decide whether to stay and listen or to be in a room nearby, for part or all of the meeting.

You may be able to bring a friend or older person you are close to who will look after your best interests or could speak on your behalf at the meeting if you find it difficult to do so.

What if I don’t want to be there?

It is very important that you attend if at all possible.
If you can’t be at the meeting, or if you would prefer not to be there, then you can:

Write something on paper that the Coordinator would read at the meeting
You can also choose someone to speak on your behalf.

Who else will be there?

Your family, extended family, your social worker, project worker or teacher and others who want to help you may be at the meeting.

Information for the Family

Why would we have a meeting like this?

Children are generally best cared for within their own families, and so a meeting like this enables families to make plans for the child/children with help from their relatives or friends and the services involved with the child/ young person.

While Family Welfare Conferences are not expected to resolve every issue that a family may face, they can be very useful to develop and put in place the family’s own safe and realistic support plan.

Will I be actively involved in the decisions made?

Your involvement in the meeting is invited from start to finish. Your participation is also very important throughout all three stages of the meeting.

The Family Welfare Conference Coordinator arranges the meeting, and she will talk to you and your family to help you prepare for it. You and your family will be involved in deciding where and when the meeting happens.

If the parent(s)/carers or the young person wish to read out their own written comments to the Family Welfare Conference in response to the report this is welcomed by the Coordinator.

What is Special Care?

Special Care is a type of Residential Care which is only considered necessary in exceptional circumstances. Special Care is provided for young persons aged 11-17 whose behavioural and emotional needs have been assessed as so extreme that they can only be met in the security and safety of a Special Care Unit with locked doors. This form of care is only considered in rare circumstances where the young person is so at risk that he/she is unable to be cared for in any other situation. A Special Care placement usually lasts for between 3-6 months.

The young person may have to go to a Special Care Unit when:

  • Their behaviour poses a serious risk to his or her health, safety, development or welfare
  • The young person is likely to cause themselves injury or they may cause injury to other persons or endanger their safety.
  • They find it impossible to control their impulses
  • They may have been constantly running away from home/carers.

All the behaviours listed above would have been persistent and severe for Special Care to be considered. A placement in Special Care will not solve all the problems experienced by the young person but can provide him/her with a chance to experience control over his/her behaviour and emotions.

What happens at this type of Family Welfare Conference?

When Special Care is being considered, the HSE is obliged, under the law, to arrange to hold a Family Welfare Conference. At this conference the HSE, other agencies and family can only recommend that an application for a placement in Special Care be made. However the decision to grant such a placement is made by an expert panel which examines applications for Special Care. If the placement is granted, an application then has to be made by the HSE to the High Court.

Is a Special Care placement the only possible outcome?

When the issue of special care is being explored, the specific aim of the Family Welfare Conference is to decide whether a young person is in need of a placement in a Special Care Unit or whether another plan can be made for him/her. That could mean

  • living with a relative or family friend
  • continuing to live at home with certain conditions in place or living in residential or foster care.

The Family Welfare Conference provides the HSE Social Workers, other agencies and the family, the opportunity to agree the safest and best plan for the young person.

Opening hours

Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
Contact us
Limerick Social Service Centre
Upper Henry St., Limerick
Tel: 061 314111

Family Welfare Conference Co-ordinator
Tel: 086 0222444

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