Unique family support programme ‘keeps families together’ in Wales

The integrated family support services programme is unique to Wales and has so far supported more than 350 families

Dedicated social care team to be scrapped
IFSS teams are helping families make positive changes. Credit: Burger/Phanie/Rex (posed by models)

A Welsh service providing support to vulnerable families with complex needs is keeping children out of care, according to deputy minister for social services Gwenda Thomas.

The integrated family support services (IFSS) programme is unique to Wales and was rolled out earlier this year. It has so far supported more than 350 families by providing targeted support and helping to connect children’s and adults services.

The service is designed to work with families to make positive changes when their children are at risk of being moved into care or put on a child protection plan. Factors for referring a family to an integrated family support team include substance misuse, domestic violence, abuse or mental health issues.

A recent evaluation of the programme discovered the practice had been used effectively. Families were found to feel significantly more confident in their ability to manage their own problems and challenges, and felt motivated to do so. They also better understood the causes of some of their issues and had seen a partial or full resolving of problems they had faced. However the evaluation also noted that the teams had been less successful with families who lead ‘chaotic’ lives, saying it struggled to motivate these chaotic families to want to turn things around.

Thomas said: “Evidence shows that early intervention in families with complex issues leads to better outcomes for those families and their children.

“IFSS is aimed at families who are primarily referred due to parental alcohol and substance misuse but is also designed to help with other problems that co-exist such as domestic violence or mental health.”

The programme was given £4.5m from the Welsh government for the continued delivery of the service across wales in 2014/15.

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3 Responses to Unique family support programme ‘keeps families together’ in Wales

  1. Jazz August 22, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    Well done Wales! Not surprising as it’s where the welfare state started …

  2. Hilary Searing August 27, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    The approach seems similar to the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) in England pioneered by retired Judge Nicholas Crichton – but does not need the expensive resource of Judges. It shows that a problem-solving approach can work when social workers have the skills in child protection planning and core group working and use their authority effectively. This way of working is desperately needed with mothers who might be involved in repeat care cases to see if they can be helped to change.

    However, for some reason this excellent programme does not get the publicity that the FDAC gets – probably because it is not based in London?

  3. Najma Iman August 27, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    Birmingham have had an Integrated Family Support Service since September 2011 the work that Family Support are doing is exactly as outlined above. Although the recent Ofsted report for Birmingham still came out as Unsatisfactory the report did highlight the good work of the Family Support Teams. More emphasis up and down the country needs to be given to Early Intervention Teams so this work is recognised as the way forward in supporting families. Well done Wales in getting your work showcased!