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Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Social Services

First published:
24 March 2011
Last updated:

In my statement earlier this month on the publication of Sustainable Social Services for Wales I said that we would move quickly to realise our vision for the future improvements to the services we provide for some of our most vulnerable people in Wales.

A key plank of the transformation is towards greater integration, where services are built on a strong relationship of trust between the service users and skilled professionals, where people are valued and their voice is heard.

These are all features of our Integrated Family Support Teams (IFSTs) designed to be agents of transformational change in the way the service interacts with families with complex needs often facing multiple difficulties that may place their child at risk.

Today I am pleased to announce that a further two pioneer areas will be implemented in 2011/12. Together with the existing pioneers; Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff, Newport and Wrexham delivering IFSS jointly with Cwm Taf, Aneurin Bevan and Betsi Cadwaladr Local Health Boards since September 2010, the additional pioneers will work towards our vision for an IFSS that is widely accessible across Wales. To send a clear message on our commitment, today we also published a Map of how IFSS could be arranged across geographical areas in Wales. This could involve up to 11 IFS teams and we will consult on the detailed arrangements at a future date.     

The scale of the task existing pioneers has faced and their progress in leading this change across organisational, cultural, service and professional boundaries for the good of children and families is commendable.

The impact of IFSS in assisting families to realise their goals and in mobilising wider service support to address the whole families’ needs is profound. Pioneers report early successes of how families are eager to engage with the programme, want to change their lifestyles and that IFSS is starting to make a real difference.  Its early success is attributable to the dedicated work of teams of highly skilled practitioners, trained in intervention techniques that build on the positives and strengths of the family to effect short and long term change. The pioneer IFS Boards have also provided strong leadership in the effective implementation of IFSS. It will take time to embed the new service culture across the services that support IFSS and the IFS Board is integral to this.

The significant increase in the number of looked after children and the data from the recently published children in need census reaffirms our decision to focus initially on parental substance misuse which, along with mental health and domestic violence, remain the primary reason for concern for a child and referrals to social services. There is now an urgent need to break the cycle of multiple disadvantages to tackle earlier the poor outcomes in education and health needs and high level of poverty that exist within the population (some 25,000) of children in need. 

The arrangements for inviting local authorities with their LHB partners to bid to become an IFSS area will be published on our IFSS website early in the financial year 2011-12. To work towards our vision to ensure geographical access to IFSS, we will prioritise bids from local authorities (a consortia minimum of two) in LHBs areas where IFSS is not currently available. A grant of £0.55m and other resources including training support will be available to consortia local authorities jointly pioneering IFSS with their LHB.

I know that Assembly Members are fully supportive of IFSS. IFSS is unique to Wales and illustrates the powers of devolution in taking action to improve public services and outcomes for children, families and communities in Wales. I thank each of you for this.