Safeguarding adults: Mediation and family group conferences

Working with adults

Key messages from policy and research

  • The main principles and processes associated with mediation and FGCs are the same in both child welfare and adult safeguarding contexts (CCEL 2012; Lupton 1998).
  • Key differences include:
    • rights under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 – or related guidance in other UK jurisdictions – and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)
    • family dynamics and relationships with extended family
    • life stages
    • different implications for the role of advocates.
  • The inclusive approach used in adult mediation and FGCs can facilitate and maximise participation in decision-making.

Practice points

  • Practice with adults must comply with the Mental Capacity Act 2005 – or related guidance in other UK jurisdictions – while recognising the individual’s right to take risks.
  • Practitioners should follow the Mental Capacity Act 2005 Code of Conduct.

FGCs for child protection focus on repairing and remaking family and friendship bonds. The family that comes to the FGC has been disrupted in some way, and elements of repair and reconciliation are often important. In adult FGCs there are also problems regarding the relationships between people. However, given the passage of time and the adult status of the main client, there is unlikely to be a family ‘repair’ process (Marsh 2007). Whereas love is a central theme in child FGCs, death is a key theme in elder adult FGCs, and they can be very useful in helping the family to plan for a person’s end-of-life decisions.

An adult’s understanding of the concept of ‘family’ is likely to be very different from that of a child. Family members may also be more reluctant to attend an FGC for an adult than for a child. Consequently, adult FGCs often have fewer participants than those for children. It may be necessary to convince people that if they do not take part in an FGC they will miss a good chance to be involved in an important decision (interview with Professor Peter Marsh, University of Sheffield, 2012).

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