Information can support families and safeguard children

Back in June of 2012 I blogged about an idea I’d had 18 months before. It was an idea I wasn’t really getting anywhere with because my circle of influence didn’t include the right decision makers to move that idea forward. It’s over here  if you wanted to read the frustration.

But, there’s good news, so I thought I’d write an update about how my idea is now becoming a reality and the opportunity this will give in supporting some of the most vulnerable families in Shropshire.

Background

National research shows that 70% of parents feel they need information, advice and support in their parenting role. Yet most are either unaware of the services that already exist or they have difficulty accessing them. My local gov undertook a Back to Basics review of early intervention and prevention for children and families, and not surprisingly the review also highlighted how local parents (and practitioners) didn’t know where to go for support; what support is available and how to access that support if needed.

The service I manage is a Family Information Service (FIS) which provides free, impartial information, advice and support on all aspects of family life, providing information on options and possibilities that might otherwise remain unknown and therefore inaccessible. The FIS reaches out to parents and carers to make these possibilities a reality, linking families to vital services and providing early intervention in terms of information provision and support, this is a statutory requirement for local gov under the Childcare Act 2006.

Due to continually needing to make efficiency savings, we have realigned the FIS deliver model to enable the service to continue to support the most vulnerable families through frontline, targeted, one to one early help, either directly to parents or through practitioners working with children, young people and families. The FIS is the first point of contact for cases which do not meet the threshold for Child Protection and Safeguarding Children.

The Idea

As a result of the work the FIS has been doing as a first point of contact for vulnerable families alongside the implementation of the new Early Help offer, I proposed that the FIS be integrated with Safeguarding and Support Services (we are currently in Customer Care) and sits alongside social care case management, assessment, looked after children, fostering and adoption, targeted youth support, parenting teams, 16+ homelessness prevention, crisis, family intervention project, disabled children’s team and children’s centres, and for us to respond to family information needs and as such enabling those more specialist services a bit more time to focus on their core role of protecting and safeguarding children, rather than looking for information on services.

Expected Outcomes

Having the FIS on hand will enable families and practitioners easy and immediate access to comprehensive information support. Families will benefit from a seamless and quick response. The information will support a family to tackle the issue themselves and as such help prevent issues escalating into requests for specialist support. This will be a more cost effective use of resources.

Integrating the FIS will also help support the recommendations of the Munro review in providing a seamless service for children and families. As the FIS has access to comprehensive information on services, and are skilled in tailoring information to meet the needs of parents and children, parents will feel supported and not be passed around from one service to the other. Social Care professionals will be have access to up to date resources and information to support the families they are working with. This will support the role of the new Early Help Advisors who will be working directly with agencies in the community.

The integration would also support the Ofsted inspection framework of being able to identify the child’s journey through the signposting and referral role of the FIS.

The FIS can also be a part of the development of peer support networks, offering trusted information on the wide range of services available and identifying new services, while continually supporting practitioners in keeping their knowledge up to date.

The FIS supports both the needs of the child and the needs of the parents and is therefore a vital link between children and adults services.

The process for supporting parents will be simplified and communication amongst services and teams will be enhanced. This will result in parents having greater access to the services which can best support their children and families.

Having the FIS based within Safeguarding Support will also compliment the other delivery routes of the services, through the work the service does around transition points in starting early years, stepping onto primary school, progressing onto secondary school and into training, employment or higher education.

The work will also help to better identify gaps in information provision and enhance service delivery.

All systems go

So, for the last 2 years I have been spouting on about greater integration and finally, the week before Christmas I had approval. Whoop. So next week the FIS will begin to work shoulder to shoulder with specialist children, young people and family services and social care, and we can’t wait.

Kate Bentham

10th January 2013

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