There’s one in every local authority, quietly providing information for families about childminders, schools and everything else a family might want to know.
The Cardiff Council Family Information Service (FIS) maintains a database of information for families and is a signposting service.
The service is currently in the process of applying for the Family First Standard. This is an accreditation scheme that validates the quality of the information provided by the service and if achieved Cardiff will be one of the first in Wales to get it.
Jason Townsend, Advice and Information officer, says the feedback they have been getting from families shows how important the service is to them.
He said: “For an awful lot of families childcare is the most important thing when they are trying to get back into work or study, and if we can give them the information that makes that transition easier then we’re providing a vital service.”
The service has three members of staff and costs approximately £35,000 year (excluding staffing costs) to run. The FIS has invested in a variety of promotional and ICT software to ensure that the service and information it provides is as accessible to families as possible at a time that best meets their needs.
Townsend said: “All the information we give is completely impartial. We just tell people what each service provides.
“A lot of the information we provide is very in-depth particularly over the phone. The conversations can sometimes be very lengthy as people want specific information.”
The service struggles with visibility as the offices are tucked away on Ocean Way, but the service is actively trying to reach out to different venues.
Townsend said: “It’s not great the location we have but we do a lot of work with libraries, community centres and leisure centres to get ourselves and our message out there.”
The FIS makes full use of a variety of local authority settings including libraries, enterprise and family centre’s to promote its service and regularly attends partner events and activities as part of its outreach program. This provides the FIS with an opportunity to meet face to face with existing and potential service users. In addition, the FIS has provided training to library staff to help them support the public access FIS information online in Cardiff libraries.
In August 2009 the website for the service was relaunched to make it easier for users to find information themselves by searching the database of family information.
2,500 people use the service every year, but Townsend is keen to stress it’s not just about numbers. However the figures are skewed as the service has not been able to install Google Analytics yet on its relaunched website. The software that tracks how many people are using the website, since its relaunch. The service is currently in the process of installing the software.
You can visit the Cardiff Family Information Service website to find out family information for Cardiff.
Have you used the service? What did you think? Did they give you the information you needed? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts