Policy Background

The origins of Family Hubs can be traced back to 1949, when ‘child welfare centres’ were proposed as a part of the original welfare state. In the 1980s these first emerged as ‘family centres’, often run by the voluntary sector. Though the family centres did a lot of work with families, they were ultimately limited by a lack of statutory direction and structure.

Family centres paved the way for the national Sure Start Children’s Centres in the 2000s under New Labour, though Sure Start differed from family centres in its pre-school focus and a tightly ringfenced budget. Under New Labour, the increase in early years spending generated social and physical infrastructure which still exists to this day.

Meanwhile, the concept of Family Hubs gained traction in the later New Labour years, cited in the 2007 Centre for Social Justice report Breakthrough Britain. By 2015 Labour had committed to ‘restore the role of Sure Start centres as Family Hubs…to shift from sticking plaster solutions to integrated early help.’ This was followed by reports from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Children’s Centres and the Children’s Commissioner commending the good practice of Family Hubs emerging across the country.

Many Conservative MPs contributed to this snowballing support for Family Hubs, so that by 2019 they were a part of the Conservative manifesto and in 2020 the government pledged an initial £2.5m towards research. Over the course of 2020 and 2021 more funding was put towards Family Hubs, including £20m from a fund rewarding public sector innovation (the Shared Outcomes Fund) and £82m in the 2021 Autumn Budget to pilot Hubs in 75 local authorities.

Several government departments now have a stake in Family Hubs, signalling their growing buy-in across government. These include the Department for Work and Pensions, through the Reducing Parental Conflict Programme; the Department of Health and Social Care, through the Leadsom Review promoting the best start for life; the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, through the Supporting Families programme; and the Ministry of Justice, in its pilot scheme integrating family courts and Family Hubs.

The history behind Family Hubs is long but, as one Director of Children’s Services put it, they are “an idea whose time has come.” 

For more information, view our detailed policy timeline.