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Agenda Item No 5

The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 12th June 2018


Report of the Director of Social Services


The Vale Family Information Service - Annual Update


Purpose of the Report

  1. To update Scrutiny Committee on the work of the Vale Family Information Service (FIS).


  1. Members of the Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee note the work of the Family Information Service.
  2. Members note the impact of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 upon the Family Information Service.
  3. Scrutiny receives an annual update on the Family Information Service.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1,2&3    To ensure effective oversight of social care services.


  1. The Vale Family Information Service (FIS) is an information service for parents and carers of children and young people aged 0-20 years in the Vale of Glamorgan, as well as for professionals working with families.  It provides free information on a wide range of childcare options and activities and support services for children, their families and their carers.
  2. The Vale FIS maintains a website containing information for parents (please click on the hyperlink), helping them support their child through their life.  For example information on parenting groups, financial help, starting nursery and school, play and leisure, bullying, relationships etc.  FIS also provide information to childcare providers on training, grants and events etc.
  3. The FIS maintains a database of over 1,000 services.  The details of approximately 180 family support services were migrated to the Dewis Cymru website in 2016/17, a further 123 Children and Young People's Activities were migrated in October 2017, followed by 380 childcare resources by May 2018.  Dewis Cymru has been implemented in Cardiff and the Vale as the mechanism to search for information on well-being services and support.  FIS has played a key part in ensuring that services supporting families have been made available on the Dewis website and FIS remains responsible for ensuring that this information is kept up to date.  The Information Officer for FIS has also taken on the role of Dewis Cymru Project Officer for the Vale Council which helps enable this change.
  4. Families and professionals can contact the service directly and the information is also available online via a childcare search facility on the Dewis Cymru website..  Information is required to be updated 6 monthly for all resources on the Dewis Cymru website.
  5. FIS Wales is a new National database held on Dewis Cymru and has been used to log all enquiries from 1 April 2018. This information is required to monitor performance of FIS and to inform the reporting requirements, for example, Childcare Sufficiency Audit and Annual Reports.
  6. FIS also provide an outreach service which supports parent groups in schools and new intake sessions.  The service works with agencies such as Families First, Flying Start, Communities for Work, Job Centre Plus, Health Visitors, PACE Project and Sports and Play to reach parents and carers whose need for help is greatest.
  7. This year FIS received additional funding from Welsh Government's Families First Grant, via the Children and Young Peoples Partnership, to deliver outreach events targeting hard to reach groups. See Appendix A.
  8. FIS is also funded through the Families First Grant to administer The Index which is a directory of children and young people in the Vale with disabilities or additional needs.  There are now 606 children and young people registered on the Index and receiving regular information, an increase of 20% since last year.  The Index has now been mirrored in Cardiff, resulting in a joint Index newsletter for Cardiff and the Vale and an Index Officer works across both authorities.  This has enabled us to share costs across the Region by jointly printing materials and publishing of the newsletter and supporting better information exchange.
  9. FIS has increased its use of social media to promote the service and to reach parents and professionals.  Facebook and Twitter are used regularly to highlight important campaigns and promote events and activities.  It is a very useful communication resource. A Facebook post promoting the FIS Easter Under the Eastern Shelter event reached over 8,000 people.
  10. ValeConnect has been used to send e-bulletins to childcare providers, families of children on the Index and professionals.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The Outreach Officer post was vacant from September 2016 to July 2017, resulting in fewer outreach opportunities and therefore fewer enquiries. We advertised the post on three occasions and were unfortunately unable to appoint.  The fourth recruitment exercise shortlisted a number of applicants and interviews took place in May, 2017.
  2. Universal Credit is due to be implemented in the Vale of Glamorgan in October 2018.  Local Authorities that are live with the full service of Universal Credit have seen a rise in enquiries to FIS relating to financial support with childcare costs as the new system is introduced. It is anticipated that the number of enquiries will rise in the Vale of Glamorgan also.
  3. Welsh Government's Childcare Offer, which will offer working parents funded childcare for three and four year olds, is due to be implemented across all authorities in Wales by September 2020.
  4. Our performance for 2017/18 is shown below:
  • 801 enquiries direct to the service (27% decrease from the previous year due to an increase in online enquiries and the reduction in outreach and marketing);
  • 4,424 online childcare enquiries (20% increase);
  • 41,350 page views to the FIS web pages (3% increase from last year) and 18,828 visits;
  • 4,852 page views to the 'Children with additional needs' web pages (26% increase from previous year) and 1,255 sessions;
  • 396 requests for childcare information (14% decrease which may be related to the increase in online childcare enquiries);
  • 102 direct enquiries for additional needs support and the Index;
  • 669 people contacting FIS for health, well-being and leisure information;
  • 67 direct enquiries for help with childcare costs and financial help;
  • 101 people referred to the Dewis website, 38 people referred to the Families First Advice Line (FFAL), 35 people referred to Flying Start;
  • Summary of enquiries and web hits over the last 3 years.






Total direct enquiries





Total online childcare searches





Total Contacts





Total web page views





*Estimated as 2 months data wasn't supplied

**Estimated as 4 months data wasn't supplied

  1. In terms of outcomes, we contact every enquirer to try and gain feedback from them. 88% would recommend our service and 87% said the information received was Good or Very Good.  For enquiries specifically for children with additional needs, 80% of families said that finding out about services available to them made a positive difference to their family.  See Appendix B for some comments.
  2. The type of enquiries we received vary greatly and includes: requests for childcare information and advice, holiday activities, becoming a child-minder, database updates, help with childcare costs, leisure activities, family support, nursery admission and education.  Some examples of the enquiries we receive are set out in Appendix B.
  3. It is evident that more people are using the service on-line, rather than contacting FIS directly. FIS also gain many enquiries from providing outreach, which accounted for 26% of all enquiries.
  4. Three full time posts are provided to deliver the service (3 FTE). Staff are also responsible for producing and promoting social care information internally and externally, through various media.  Funding from the Families First Grant Disabilities Strand is used to fund an additional temporary Index Officer (Cardiff and Vale) (1 FTE), who is also based in the Family Information Service.  A Family Information Support Officer has also been funded (0.4 FTE) to support the Outreach and Information Officer and the work on Dewis Cymru.

Key Achievements

  1. There have been many achievements in the past year.
  • 136 new children registered on the Index of Children with Disabilities or Additional Needs.
  • An Online registration form for The Index developed and available.
  • 614 new enquirers accessed information from FIS (77% of all enquiries).
  • Joint working and promotion carried out with the Families First Advice Line (FFAL) to GPs, health visitors, front line local authority staff and in Llandough Children's Centre.
  • FIS School Certificate of Achievement has now been developed for partners.  The FIS Partner Certificate of Achievement has been achieved by 6 partners.
  • The service produced another successful Summer Holiday Activity Programme, available online, which resulted in over 9,117 web hits, as well as developing an Easter Holiday Activity Programme, available online, which resulted in over 2,332 web hits.
  • Worked with the Local Data Unit and other Family Information Services across Wales to design, develop and implement a National FIS Wales database via Dewis Cymru.
  • Vale FIS now has 378 Childcare resources on Dewis Cymru, along with 123 Children and Young People's Activities and 180 Family Support Services.
  • A Regional Index for Cardiff and the Vale has been developed with the Vale Index model has been replicated in Cardiff.  The Index Officer post has been regionalised and is employed by the Vale to cover both authorities. 
  • 10 events supported and delivered through Families First 'Parenting Give it time.' funding including: FIS Christmas Party, Inclusive Family Fun Day at Ysgol Y Deri and Easter under the Eastern Shelter.
  • Engagement with Rainbow Women's Group, establishing an important link with the BME community.
  • Following last year's data migration of Family Support services on Dewis Cymru, Vale FIS have now completed the transfer of the Children and Young People's Activities Directory to the Dewis Cymru website and encouraged providers to update their information. Cardiff and Vale FIS Teams have led the way to support other FISs in Wales to migrate their information.
  • Social media is used as a key communication tool and the FIS Facebook page now has 1,204 1,637 people following the page (433 new followers in the last year).  Twitter now has 742 followers (310 new followers in the last year).
  • 100 Bigstock illustrations have been purchased in order to rebrand promotional materials as well as the FIS website, to improve promotion across the Vale. These are friendly cartoon illustrations, which will enable us to replace our stock of photographs which are costly and become out of date quickly.
  • A range of outreach equipment and resources were purchased via Welsh Government funding and will be used to engage with families and professionals across the Vale.

Key Actions for the next year:

  • Work with partners to deliver Free Family Fun Days to build on the success of the events delivered through Families First funding;
  • Work with health visitors and parent groups to ensure that new parents are aware of FIS, by attending baby clinics and parent and toddler groups;
  • Work with schools to increase registrations to The Index and School Certificate engagement;
  • Continuing to work with Job Centre Plus and PACE project to ensure that lone parents are aware of available childcare options;
  • Continue engagement with Rainbow Women's Group via Group sessions and outreach events;
  • Continue to roll out the FIS School Certificate of Achievement and FIS Partner Certificate of Achievement;
  • Work with Cardiff FIS to produce joint Index newsletters quarterly, improving access to information on services for children with disabilities or additional needs across Cardiff and the Vale and achieving efficiencies for the Vale;
  • Attend key events to promote FIS/The Index and Dewis Cymru;
  • Work with the Families First Advice Line to ensure parents and carers are accessing information and advice and all support services are available on Dewis Cymru;
  • Work with Carers Support Officer and other partners to raise awareness of Carers Assessment eligibility and signpost families to information and support;
  • Continue to work with Children and Young People's Services to ensure a full Information, Advice and Assistance service is available and that citizens are appropriately accessing and signposted to sources of help and support.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. The Family Information Service is funded from RSG as a legacy from Welsh Government Cymorth Grant which transferred to RSG in 2008.
  2. Additional funding to support The Index is provided under a Service Level Agreement funded from Vale Families First, Disability Strand (£22,000).
  3. Adoption of FIS Wales has enabled the Vale to dispense with an expensive maintenance and development support for the Synergy Early Years System it used previously contract, releasing funding for use in improving service to families such as outreach activities and events.
  4. Inherent in the requirements to deliver a statutory Family Information Service is the provision of information to support parents and carers who wish to enter or maintain employment and to support the development of the local childcare workforce.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. Increasing use of digital methods for providing information can produce environmental benefits through a reduction in printed media.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The Family Information Service enables the Council to fulfil its responsibilities under the Child Care Act 2006, Section 27, regarding the provision of prescribed information to parents and prospective parents, on childcare and other services or facilities.
  2. It also provides an integral part of the Information Advice and Assistance (IAA) service, as required by the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act (2014).

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. The FIS can refer on to other organisations who offer preventative support, thus preventing children and young people engaging in anti-social or criminal behaviour.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. 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 to parents.  All information for the public is available bilingually.
  2. The FIS has adopted an Equal Opportunities Policy, one of the requirements of the national FIS Quality Award.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. 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 2016-20 Well-being Outcome 4: An Active and Healthy Vale Objective 7: Encouraging and promoting active and healthy lifestyles. Objective 8: Safeguarding those who are vulnerable and promoting independent living.

Social Services Plan: Children and Young People's Services 2016-2020:

WO4-An Active and Healthy Vale

O7: Encouraging and promoting active and health lifestyles.

AH4 - Evaluate options available to provide a bespoke Family Information Service database and record management system.

O8: Safeguarding those who are vulnerable and promoting independent living.

AH7/RCYP2 - Implement Dewis Cymru (the national and local resource directory).

AH7/RCYP3 - Further develop the Information, Advice and Assistance (IAA) Service.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. No local ward member consultation has been undertaken as this is a Vale-wide service.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Healthy Living and Social Care

Background Papers

Appendix A: Outreach Events Evaluations

Appendix B: Case Studies - How have we helped families?

Contact Officer

Amanda Phillips, Head of Resources Management and Safeguarding

Officers Consulted

Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People's Services

Mark Davies, Prevention and Partnership Manager

Responsible Officer

Lance Carver, Director of Social Services