Power relations in advocacy approaches in family group conferencing with children and young people

Fox, Darrell James (2015) Power relations in advocacy approaches in family group conferencing with children and young people. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Independent advocacy to support children and young people undertaking a Family Group Conference (FGC) is commonplace in England and Wales. This approach is viewed as good practice when working with young people in promoting their rights, agency, and participation in statutory social work meetings and processes where decisions are being undertaken that directly affect them. FGC provides a forum that allows statutory social workers to work in partnership with children and families where there are identified welfare concerns. However, the use of advocacy approaches within the FGC model researched in this study differs from the successful original processes developed in New Zealand. The study uses interviews with FGC participants, both users and practitioners, and an analysis of legislative and policy documents. It suggests that adapting the FGC model by changing its core processes of advocacy and coordination has had a variety of consequences, many unforeseen and negative as well as positive and affirming for young people and their families. The study found that empowerment, collaboration, and participation, all major precepts and objectives for FGC and advocacy approaches, were at times disrupted and diffused. This undermined rather than enhanced the experiences and the outcomes for service users with many feeling disempowered rather than empowered through the process. Hence the exercise of power through the processes of FGC Advocacy is held up to critical scrutiny and its impact both positive and negative on the FGC
participants is discussed in depth.

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