Thursday, 13 October 2011

What can your Family Information Service do for you?

I was recently invited to join a parents/carers panel for my local Family Information Service, and it got me to thinking, what do they actually DO?  And despite me being famous/infamous enough to be invited, I wasn't really sure myself.  What better excuse to find out, and to share a bit of information with the world at large?

First things first.  The Family Information Service is a statutory service in England & Wales.  That means that wherever you live in England or Wales, your local authority HAS to have a Family Information Service.  If you're in Scotland or Northern Ireland, similar services exist, though they may have other names.  Elsewhere in the world, I'm afraid you're on your own for this one.

The Family Information Service are a "one-stop-shop" for any kind of information for your family (the clue's in the name). Looking for details of local childminders?  Out-of-school services? Youth clubs for a teenager?  Give the Family Information Service a call.  Maybe you've got a child with a disability and you're looking for some advice, or other parents in a similar situation. They can point you in the direction of someone who can help.

The Family Information Service don't provide all these things themselves, but they're a central point to find out what's out there in your local area, and to get information about services, support, events, groups, etc.  And if you're involved with a group, make sure your local Family Information Service have got the details, they can't give your information out if they haven't got it!  It's a great way to get new people involved, or if you're looking to expand a service, you can find out where there's gaps in other services at the moment (anyone who wants to set up an open-access playgroup around Merthyr Tydfil on a Wednesday, that'd be brilliant, and you'd have roughly no competition!)

The panel was really useful, in terms of finding out about things I didn't know, and finding out other parents' experiences.  It's like many aspects of parenting (and blogging, come to think of it), we all feel like we're on our own, and we're the only person to have faced this issue/made this mistake, and then we talk to someone else, and find we're all in the same situation after all.  I'm excited to be part of our Family Information Service panel, and hope we can make a real difference in improving the range of information available to people, and the number of people the information reaches.  One thing we identified is how marginalised you can feel as a working parent, so much attention is given to those who are out-of-work, that there's very few groups, informal provision or support available outside office hours.  If that's the impact we have, it'll be very positive for a lot of people. 

Oh, I mentioned events, right?  That's something our Family Information Service do too.  They run a Family Fun Day every year, getting lots of the agencies working with families in the area together to hold a day of fun in the sunshine, with arts, crafts, games, competitions, face painting, a great chance to get an idea of the range of services available (and also really, really good fun!)

So, that's the Family Information Service.  Have you used yours? Give them a call, they'd love to hear from you.

1 comment:

  1. A well-written and very informative post - will be very helpful to lots of folks.


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