The Family Review, commissioned by government, seeks to understand what family means to people, how services support families, and what can be done to improve services.
Qualitative research with parents for Part 1 of the Family Review highlighted the need for a comprehensive source of information about local family services.[i] Parents told us they struggled to find help that was right for them, and they were missing a central place where they could find out about the different services they could access. The most popular source of information about family hubs was word of mouth.
Section 12 of the Childcare Act 2006 requires local authorities to establish and maintain a Family Information Service (FIS) which provides information on the provision on the provision of childcare in the local authority area (including the provision of childcare suitable for disabled children) and any other services which might benefit parents, prospective parents or children and young people. [ii] Qualitative research in Part 1 of the Family Review found that awareness of the Family Information Service was low.
In the Department of Education’s last review of FIS in 2010, they found that 73% of local authorities had less than 5,000 hits on their FIS website per month and 31% of LAs self-reported they weren’t meeting their section 12 duty on FIS.[iii] This suggests there is room to improve local sources of information on family services.
As part of the Family Review, I’m auditing the Family Information Service of 60 local authorities. I’ve already published the results of this audit specific to childcare, where I found that for 27% of local authorities, it was difficult to find a local childminder on FIS and for 60% of local authorities, the directory of childcare didn’t contain all the information required in the statutory guidance.[iv] The remainder of the audit will explore how whether it’s easy to find FIS and whether it’s easy to navigate FIS for wider family services beyond childcare.