INQUEST is committed to the “empowerment of families enabling them to control not only their own situation but also to contribute to the work of reform”.

What is a Family Listening Day?

Family listening days offer public bodies, policymakers and other bereavement-focused organisations the opportunity to hear directly from family members about the circumstances surrounding a person’s death in detention/custody, or in a similarly contentious circumstance.

INQUEST has developed a consistent and replicable framework for delivering the family voice to the reform process; a model that could be used and adapted for specific listening day ‘audiences’.

The Family Listening Day model is a tried and tested methodology for seeking participant feedback and adheres to the following principles:

  • planned – in conjunction with the review team, families and INQUEST staff;
  • facilitated – by experienced INQUEST staff, briefed and knowledgeable on the key issues, and with an understanding of the families’ particular cases;
  • thematic – to provide focus and to avoid the event becoming too wide reaching and broad based;
  • discursive – by encouraging participants to discuss the issues in a safe and understanding environment, allowing a free flow of ideas and thoughts surrounding the review’s themes;
  • inclusive – ensuring as wide a range of families affected by the issues under scrutiny felt able to attend and speak;
  • confidential – information shared during listening days is honest and heartfelt, and a recognition that what is shared within the group should not be disclosed outside the group;
  • compassionate – as an INQUEST caseworker pointed out, “families find it difficult and painful to talk through these things”. The importance of compassion and understanding is crucial to the success of the process
    and families should not feel isolated by judgmental attitudes;
  • reflective – offering a chance to re-balance power structures and give participants the chance to reflect on the impact of events;
  • archived – the families’ contributions are recorded and placed in the public domain.

INQUEST has been commissioned to run several family listening events in the past for organisations including the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Care Quality Commission and others. 

See examples of Family Listening Days and associated reports below:

INQUEST report of the Family Listening Day for the London Clinical Network Health in Justice INQUEST Family Listening Day Report December 2019 DOWNLOAD
INQUEST report of the Family Listening Day for the Independent Police Complaints Commission INQUEST Family Listening Day Report March 2018 DOWNLOAD
Independent Review into Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police CustodyDame Elish Angiolini QC INQUEST Family Listening Day Report May 2017 DOWNLOAD
Bishop's Review of Hillsborough Families' ExperienceRt. Rev James Jones INQUEST Family Listening Day Report April 2017 DOWNLOAD
CQC Review of Investigations into Deaths in NHS TrustsCare Quality Commission INQUEST Family Listening Day Report October 2016 DOWNLOAD
Independent Review into Self Inflicted Deaths in Custody of 18-24 year olds, Lord Harris INQUEST Family Listening Day Report October 2016 DOWNLOAD
Inquiry into non-natural deaths in detention of adults with mental health conditions, 2010–13, Equality and Human Rights Commission INQUEST Family Listening Day Report December 2014 DOWNLOAD
Report of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody Family Listening Day  INQUEST Family Listening Day Report September 2011 DOWNLOAD
Report of a Family Listening Day Organised by INQUEST on behalf of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody INQUEST Family Listening Day Report March 2010 DOWNLOAD

Why are Family Listening Days important?

Custody, detention and other contested deaths throw up a number of questions. These include: whether risks to individuals were identified before their death, if there were known vulnerabilities, and if families were properly involved during a relative’s time in a custody/care, and during the inquest.

Families’ input in investigations can help eradicate dangerous practices and give organisations the mandate they need to carry out their tasks effectively. They also help to assure the public that all investigations into deaths are subject to robust scrutiny.

I was very struck by what I was told and it very much shaped my thinking’ - Bishop James Jones, chair of the Hillsborough families’ experiences

How to commission a listening day?

With over 30 years’ experience of working with families, INQUEST works with commissioning organisations to organise a listening day that reflects their terms of reference. We have a careful selection criteria where we consider the relevance of families for the day, alongside the need for diverse representation. 

Commissioning organisations staff have described the impact of listening days as:

memorable events... it sticks in the mind like nothing else, much more than seeing evidence written down in a report”.

Please get in touch with us at [email protected] for more information on commissioning a day.