Agenda Item No
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) : 10th February, 2014
Report of the Director of Social Services
The Vale Family Information Service
Purpose of the Report
1. To update Scrutiny Committee on the work of the Vale Family Information Service (FIS), which enables parents and families to gain access to information and advice about services that will help support them and give them a better quality of life.
1. That Members of the Scrutiny Committee note the work of the Family Information Service.
Reason for the Recommendation
1. To ensure that elected Members exercise effective oversight of an important local authority function undertaken by the Social Services Directorate.
2. The Vale Family Information Service provides information and advice to parents and carers of children in the Vale of Glamorgan (as well as to professionals working with families) about the following areas:
registered and unregistered childcare;
parent and toddler groups and activities and services for children and young people;
holiday playschemes and leisure activities;
education and health and wellbeing services;
family support services;
services supporting children with special needs;
services promoting the Welsh language;
help with childcare costs and benefits for parents; and
how to become a childminder or start a career in childcare.
3. The FIS replaced the Children and Young People's Information Service following introduction of the Childcare Act 2006. This required every local authority to provide information to parents and prospective parents on childcare and all other services for children and young people aged 0 to 20 years. In the Vale, the service has expanded to include information for young people age 11 - 25 years. This information is made available via the Swoosh website for young people: www.swoosh.me.uk/en/organisations/
4. The FIS maintains a database of over 1,000 services and this information is updated at least annually. As well as providing information to the public, the service helps to inform planning and development in areas such as parenting services, youth services and schools' extra curricular activities. Its work has underpinned the Family Support Strategy and the 14 - 19 Network.
5. Parents, carers, service providers and professionals can access information by contacting the service directly, e-mailing the team, visiting the FIS web pages and visiting the team at outreach events. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are now used routinely as a means of providing information to the public and for the FIS to receive enquiries.
6. In April 2012, FIS was given funding to support and re-launch the Index of Children with Special and Particular Needs. The grant is used to employ a part-time Indix Administrator. There are now 266 children registered on the Index and receiving information regularly.
Relevant Issues and Options
7. Vale FIS has achieved the National Association of Family Information Services (NAFIS) Families First Award (October 2012). The Vale is the sixth local authority in Wales to receive this accolade.
8. Between October 2012 and September 2013, the FIS received the following enquiries:
2,473 enquiries direct to the service;
28,830 page views to the FIS web pages;
2,001 online childcare enquiries;
375 online family support enquiries.
9. From April 2012 - March 2013, 573 people accessed information about childcare. 80% of those who contacted the FIS were able to find suitable childcare. 99% would recommend the service to other people.
10. The nature of enquiries is varied, ranging from parents wanting to return to work and needing childcare and help with childcare costs to parents who are at the end of their tether, with a number of children who have special needs and wondering how to cope during the school summer holidays. The FIS will make referrals to various organisations, often helping parents or professionals from having to make numerous phone calls and perhaps getting the run around. Appendix 1 contains examples of case studies and good news stories.
11. The team also provide an outreach service. They have introduced the FIS School Certificate, to encourage schools to promote the service to parents, and they attend school parents' sessions and new intake sessions. Eleven schools have now achieved the Certificate and four are working towards Level 2. The scheme has been recognised as an example of good practice and it is now being adopted regionally.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
12. Two full time and one part time member of staff deliver the service. Staff are also responsible for producing and promoting social care information internally and externally, through various medias.
13. A grant from the Families First Fund is used to employ a part-time Disability Index Administrator, who is also based in the team.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
14. The FIS enables parents and families to access timely information regarding childcare and activity information which can support them to return to work and to retain employment.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
15. The Family Information Service enables the Council to fulfil its legal responsibilities under the Childcare Act 2006.
16. Section 27 of the 2006 Act broadened an existing duty on Local Authorities to provide information on childcare and related services. They are required to ensure availability of, or signposting to comprehensive information for parents of children and young people aged up to 20 on local services provided and signposting to national sources of help. Information will need to be accessible to fathers as well as mothers; to disadvantaged and excluded groups; and to parents for whom English is not the first language.
Crime and Disorder Implications
17. FIS can be the first port of call for parents who are concerned about their child's behaviour. They can refer to other organisations able to help prevent children and young people engaging in antisocial or criminal behaviour.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
18. The FIS offers a service to every parent or carer living in the Vale of Glamorgan. Information on Welsh medium childcare provision and raising children through the medium of Welsh is provided. All information for the public is available bilingually.
19. The FIS has adopted an Equal Opportunities Policy, one of the requirements of the Quality Award.
20. The Vale FIS contributes to the following corporate / service objectives:
Community Strategy 2011-2021 Priority Outcome 5: Children and Young people in the Vale are well informed and supported to access a broad range of quality services that enable them to take full advantage of the life opportunities available in their local communities and beyond.
Corporate Plan 2013 - 2017 Outcome: Children and young people are engaged and supported and take full advantage of life opportunities available in their local community and beyond.
Social Services Plan 2013-2017 Outcome 1: People in the Vale of Glamorgan are able to request support and receive the right help in a timely manner.
Welsh Education Strategic Plan 2012-2015 Outcome 1: More seven-year-old children being taught through the medium of Welsh.
Policy Framework and Budget
21. The report is in accordance with the Council's policy framework and budget.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
22. No local ward member consultation has been undertaken as this is a Vale Wide Initiative.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
23. Social Care and Health
Extract from All Wales FIS Annual Narrative Report
Phil Evans, Director of Social Services