Barnardo’s and ADSS Cymru welcome integrated family support

Delegates at last week’s Welsh National Social Services Conference welcomed plans to establish multi-agency teams to support families where parents have complex needs but raised concerns about how they would be implemented.

The Welsh government is to legislate to introduce integrated family support teams (IFSTs) from 2013-15, following a pilot in three authorities starting next year. The pilot areas will be announced next month, with each receiving £1.8m over three years.

Speaking at last week’s conference Neelam Bhardwaja, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru and director of social services at Cardiff Council, said the teams would improve multi-agency care planning and speed up response times.

Yvonne Rodgers, director of Barnardo’s Cymru, said the multi-disciplinary approach would provide better support to parents with complex needs.

Delegates’ concerns

However, in a seminar on the scheme at the conference, delegates raised concerns about how the teams would work in practice and the level of funding available for non-pilot authorities.

The multi-professional teams will also test new workforce roles, such as that of social work consultant. In Hackney, east London, consultants have led small teams working with vulnerable children and families and taken responsibility for all cases while continuing to practice.

Complex needs

In Wales health boards would be required to work with councils to resource and manage the teams, which would be allocated to families where parents have complex needs including substance misuse, mental illness and violent behaviour, and children are defined as being in need.

Teams could be run by one local authority across council boundaries, while each will be overseen by a board comprising social services directors, other council officers and health chiefs.

The Welsh government also plans to establish a national steering board to monitor the implementation of IFSTs.

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