Our Family Information Service is here to help
2 October 2020
We interviewed Rachel Nesbitt, the manager of the Cheshire East Family Information Service recently. Rachel tells us a little bit about herself and the team and how they offer free, confidential and impartial information, advice and guidance for families with children and young people aged 0-25 with SEND
More information can be found on our dedicated Family Information Service page.
Can you tell us how you came to work in the Family Information Service (FIS)?
Before FIS , I was a disclosures officer for Cheshire Police in the safeguarding team. Prior to that role I was a customer services manager within the housing department for Stoke-on-Trent City Council. I wanted to return to a manager role and work for my own local authority, the FIS role was exactly what I was looking for, as I am passionate about supporting families and children. I came into the role at an exciting time, back in May 2017, as there was an opportunity to reshape the service, recruiting a new team, and rebranding.
I have lived in Sandbach since I was a child and went to Sandbach High School.
Is there a whole team of you then?
There are five of us in the team, Nina, Jane, Clare and Jess. Their day starts at 8.30am when the calls start to come in.
The service is manned Monday to Friday 8.30am till 5pm (4.30pm Fridays)
We provide outreach working delivered from children’s centres across Cheshire East. We are also in many social media parent forums and so can engage supporting with any enquiries which arise.
We put together a Youtube video with more information about our team.
Can you tell us a bit about what your role covers?
FIS is free and is a statutory service under the Childcare Act 2006. We provide advice and support to professionals, parents, carers and young people, looking to find out information, to support the needs of their children and families aged 0-19 (25 with SEND )
We cover topics including parenting support, finding childcare, early years education, childcare funding, fun days out, and activities/clubs going on in the local area. We can also help applying for school places.
Importantly, we can signpost parents and carers to information available on the Cheshire East Local Offer, an online resource for children and young people with additional educational needs and/or disabilities ( SEND ).
Parents don’t always know what’s available so we encourage them to get in touch so we can direct them to the help and support they need. We also want to ensure we are supporting emotionally healthy children and young people from birth to school readiness, through education and into early adulthood.
One of the main services we promote is the Parenting Journey, which supports families from pregnancy until your child starts school. With a mixture of sessions from stay and plays in local children’s centre to your health visitor coming to visit you. It is a fun way for you to learn more about your child’s development, speak to health and childcare professionals along with a chance to meet other parents.
Information about autism has been a topic which has received high engagement, so we ensure we are consistent and up to date to provide the best advice and support we can. We are always developing areas of our webpages, currently we are reviewing the information and advice we have on child bereavement, we want to deliver proactive support, so the team and our resources are as up to date and comprehensive as possible.
Has your role changed at all since the coronavirus pandemic?
Initially, massively as we were coordinating finding childcare for key workers across Cheshire East, we were very busy supporting those enquiries and ensuring we were providing timely and up to date information and guidance to support parents’ enquiries and areas of concerns. We worked closely with other teams within early years and early years settings to ensure children were able to access childcare for those key workers on the front line.
Most of us are working from home, we handle calls like a call centre, new technology has helped us to continue to take phone calls via our laptops from home which has enabled the service to be delivered with limited disruption.
We are keen to explore technology for opportunities to engage virtually and face to face…. so watch this space!
We really want everyone to be reassured that we are still here and happy to help.
How do people get in touch if they need any help?
People can talk to us by call us direct on 0300 123 5033, or they can email enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form directly from our webpage.
We find that people like to talk and hear a voice, they like the opportunity to explain their circumstances …we are here at the end of a phone and ready to help you. The customer service the team provide is excellent, I am extremely proud of the service that we deliver to the residents and professionals of Cheshire East, attentive to each call ensuring they provide the information and support they need.