According to the Family and Childcare Trust, which surveyed 20 Family Information Services in Wales, a quarter have cut their outreach services and a third of have increased these services.
This has left Wales with ‘inconsistent’ and ‘patchy support’ for targeted programmes such as Flying Start, Families First, Communities First and Integrated Family Support Services, claims the Trust, which has published a report based on the survey findings entitled ‘The work of Family Information Services in Wales’.
Under the Flying Start programme, disadvantaged two- to three-year-olds receive free part-time childcare, while Families First focuses on prevention and early intervention for families.
The Family and Childcare Trust suggest that under-performing Family Information Services are at risk of breaking section 27 of the Childcare Act, which states that local authorities in Wales must run a service providing information, advice and assistance about childcare and other activities of benefit to parents, children and young people up to the age of 20.
In light of this, the report goes on to set out a number of recommendations, including more ‘formal co-ordination’ between Family Information Services and other agencies that work with families, and acknowledgement by the Welsh Government of the ‘pivotal’ role these services play in delivering its flagship programmes for vulnerable families.
A second report, written by the chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, Anand Shukla, entitled ‘Measuring the impact of providing information to families’, also reveals that many families are unaware of the information provided by Family Information Services in England.
Mr Shukla said, ‘While there is excellent practice in some local authorities, there is inconsistency across Wales, with some Family Information Services experiencing cuts while others have seen increases.
‘Many families don’t know about the support or services available to them. They are usually low-income families, families without internet access or who move around a lot, such as families in the Armed Forces.
'This is why Family Information Services’ outreach work is such an essential component to the delivery of the Welsh Government’s flagship programmes, with Flying Start alone aiming to reach some 36,000 more disadvantaged under five-year-olds for more tailored support. Without this outreach, many disadvantaged children in Wales stand to lose out.’