Skip to main content

Families: Advisory Services

Volume 491: debated on Thursday 30 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families if he will make an assessment of the (a) effectiveness and (b) availability of the provision by local authorities of family information services under the Childcare Act 2006. (267275)

The Department for Children, Schools and Families recently published an evaluation of Family Information Services (FIS) in England. The evaluation included a user satisfaction survey, a survey of FIS managers and some case studies. It was commissioned to gauge the progress local authorities were making in implementing their statutory duty, set out in section 12 of the Childcare Act 2006, to provide information to parents about child care and other services to support their children up to age 19. This broader duty came into force in April 2008 and the field work for the evaluation was carried out between June and November 2008.

The results of the evaluation are encouraging with respect to effectiveness and availability.

In terms of effectiveness, the study found that satisfaction rates among users were extremely high:

97 per cent. of those who contacted the service said they were satisfied with the advice they received.

85 per cent. of those who had previously gone to another organisation with similar queries said the advice they received from the FIS was better or as good.

In terms of availability of the provision, the research found that FIS offered a range of contact methods for users:

All offered a telephone helpline (100 per cent.) and email helpline (100 per cent.).

The vast majority offered a website for information (99 per cent.) and access through Children's Centres (95 per cent.).

97 per cent. of managers said their FIS provided outreach services of some kind and 50 per cent. said they had increased outreach to assist in the delivery of the extended information duty. Outreach was mainly conducted through Children's Centres (82 per cent.), events in the community (56 per cent.), health centres (51 per cent.) and schools (48 per cent.).

The evaluation also shows that many local authorities need to do more to ensure they meet the needs of parents. This Department will continue to work with them to do so.