Agenda Item No 6


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 13th April, 2015


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).




1.         Members of the Scrutiny Committee note the work of the Family Information Service.

2.         Members of the Scrutiny Committee note that the potential impact of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 upon of the service as it requires that the Council and its partners put in place a broader well-being service which provides people with information and advice relating to care and support and assistance in accessing care and support.

3.         Members of the Scrutiny Committee request a further update on an annual basis.

Reason for the Recommendations

1-3    To ensure effective oversight of social care services.


1.         The Vale FIS is a one-stop information and advice service for parents and carers of children and young people aged 0-25 years in the Vale of Glamorgan, as well as for professionals working with families.  It aims to provide them with the knowledge required to get access to services that will help support them and give them a better quality of life.

2.         Information and advice is provided about the following:

  • Registered and unregistered childcare;
  • Parent and toddler groups and activities and services for children and young people;
  • Holiday play schemes 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;
  • How to become a childminder or start a career in childcare.

3.         The FIS maintains a database of over 1,000 services.  Families and professionals can contact the service directly and the information is also available online via a childcare search facility, a family support directory and the Swoosh website for young people.  Information is updated at least annually

4.         FIS also provides an outreach service which supports parent groups in schools and new intake sessions.  The service works with agencies such as Flying Start, Communities First, Job Centre Plus, Health Visitors and Play and Leisure to reach parents and carers whose need for help is greatest.

5.         FIS is also funded through the Families First Grant to administer the Disability Index, which is a directory of children and young people in the Vale who have specific impairments and requirements.  There are now 330 children and young people registered on the Index and receiving regular information, an increase of 25% since last year.  

6.         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 free communication resource.

Relevant Issues and Options

7.         In order to compare performance with the previous report presented to Scrutiny in February last year, statistics have been provided on enquiries received by the service for the period October 2013-September 2014.  These show that there were:

  • 1,458 enquiries direct to the service (41% decrease from the previous year);
  • 38,703 page views to the FIS web pages (34% increase from the previous year);
  • 2,001 online childcare enquiries (67% increase from the previous year);
  • 375 online family support enquiries (140% increase from the previous year);
  • 2,537 page views to the 'Children with additional needs' web pages (17% increase from the previous year);
  • 658 requests for childcare information;
  • 132 direct enquiries for special needs support and the Disability Index;
  • 230 direct enquiries for holiday activities;
  • 95 direct enquiries for help with childcare costs.

8.         In terms of outcomes, 54% of those who contacted the FIS were able to find suitable childcare, 36% said their circumstances had changed or they had not started looking yet and 10% were unable to find childcare.  74% of those able to find childcare were also able to take up training, find work or remain in work.

9.         Half of all direct enquiries were requests for childcare information and advice.  The remaining enquiries vary greatly but include information about holiday activities, becoming a childminder, database updates, help with childcare costs, leisure activities, family support, and education.  Some examples of the enquiries we receive are set out in Appendix 1.

10.      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 16% of all enquiries while enquiries via social media have almost tripled from the previous year.   

Key Achievements (please see Appendix 2 for more information).


11.      There have been many achievements in the past year.

  • 80% of users said the information had made a difference to them and their families, by improving their knowledge, enabling them to access services, ensuring that their child had made friends or increased in confidence.
  • 98% of users were satisfied or very satisfied with the service received from FIS and 99% would recommend the service to others.
  • 919 new enquirers accessed information from FIS (65% of all enquiries).
  • The number of online childcare searches increased by 67% and family support searches by 140%.
  • 3 more primary schools achieved the level 1 FIS School Certificate of Achievement (16 in total) and 2 schools have achieved level 2.
  • The service assisted with the compilation of the Childcare Sufficiency Assessment (CSA), by reporting on the supply of childcare in the Vale, levels of demand for FIS, and feedback gained from customers.  We assisted in processes for consulting with parents and providers.  FIS is also making a contribution to many of the actions in the CSA Action Plan, to help parents back into work and training.
  • The service coordinated a family fun day for families with children with special needs and their siblings, funded through the Families First grant.
  • The service worked with the Network Childminding Facilitator and ran focus groups with childminders within the Vale, to consult on how they felt about FIS and how we can work together more effectively.
  • The service worked with Jobs Centre Plus in Barry to help lone parents get back into work and we now attend weekly group sessions.
  • The service produced another successful Summer Holiday Activity Programme, available online, which resulted in 15,000 web hits.

Key Actions for the next year:


12.      Key actions for the new year include :

  • Completing the Childcare Sufficiency Assessment (CSA) Refresh;
  • Implementing the actions from the Welsh Government guidance 'Delivering Quality Information for Families Together';
  • Working to integrate the Swoosh database and FIS database so that information needs to be updated only once;
  • Working with 'Ysgol Y Deri' to promote the Disability Index and gain the FIS School Certificate level 1;
  • Helping health visitors and midwives to ensure that new parents are aware of FIS, by attending Parent Craft sessions and carrying out presentations;
  • Continuing to work with Job Centre Plus to ensure that lone parents are aware of available childcare  options;
  • Encouraging partner agencies to work towards the FIS certificate; and
  • Improving the Disability Index web pages and introducing an incentive to encourage families to sign up to the Index.

13.      The work of the unit will be reviewed this year to ensure that the Council is able to meet in full the requirements of the Social Services and Well-being Act 2014 with regard to the broader provision of information, advice and assistance (IAA).

14.      To meet the requirements of the Act, any IAA service must be available to all people in the local area and help to provide the primary entry point to the care and support system.  The Information, Advice and Assistance service must include, as a minimum, the publication of information and advice on:

  • how the care and support system operates in the local authority area;
  • the types of care and support available;
  • how to access the care and support that is available; and
  • how to raise concerns about the wellbeing of a person who appears to have needs for care and support.

15.      The Local Authority must ensure that the Information, Advice and Assistance Service will offer appropriate support and guidance to people and professionals.  It must:

  • be well publicised in the locality, particularly in places and through media that will reach people of all ages;
  • be available through a variety of media (including online, digital media, telephone, face-to-face, outreach and publications);
  • be available through a variety formats (including easy read versions and  child friendly versions);
  • be available through the medium of Welsh;
  • be staffed by a range of skilled professionals including those with experience in the social care, health, third and independent sectors, to provide an holistic approach;
  • support individuals to build on their strengths and draw out what the person wants to achieve, and
  • meet service content accreditation standards for the range of formats to ensure a consistent and reliable response.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

16.      Two full-time and one part-time member of staff (0.59fte) deliver the service.  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 a part-time Disability Index Administrator (0.59 fte), who is also based in the Family Information Service Team.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

17.      Increasing use of digital methods for providing information can produce environmental benefits.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

18.      The Family Information Service enables the Council to fulfil its responsibilities under the relevant parts of the Child Care Act 2006 regarding the provision of information, advice and assistance.

Crime and Disorder Implications

19.      The FIS can be the first port of call for parents who are concerned about their child's behaviour.  They 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)

20.      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.

21.      The FIS has adopted an Equal Opportunities Policy, one of the requirements of the Quality Award.

Corporate/Service Objectives

22.      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 2014-2018 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

23.      The report is in accordance with the Council's policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

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

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

25.      Social Care and Health.

Background Papers

Report to Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee 10th February 2014.


Contact Officer

Carys Lord, Head of Business Management and Innovation


Officers Consulted

Information Officer, Business Management and Innovation


Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services