The Education Select Committee published the report of its inquiry on tackling disadvantage in the early years and the Government responded to the committee’s report. The Government’s response reviewed early years provision and recommended that the Department for Education should resurrect their review of children’s centres and develop a wider, comprehensive strategy for provision of high quality and effective early years services. As part of this the Government recommended that the DfE should explore promoting family hubs as a wider model for provision of integrated services.
‘We encourage local authorities to adopt the Family Hub approach, which aims to build stronger relationships and co-locate services, if they believe it would deliver improved outcomes for their areas.’
The report outlines eight case studies of councils across England who are responding to the challenges of reduced local funding and increasing demand. Many of these councils have expanded their support offer to include families with children older than the early years cut off of 5 years. Some children’s centres have rebranded as Family Hubs but even those who haven’t adopted this terminology have moved to a hub like model with a family focus, community and volunteer involvement and support for families beyond the early years.
Councillor Ros James, Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People said of North East Lincolnshire Council’s move to adopt the Family Hub model: ‘We have always been clear that we needed to develop and build upon the work of our children’s centre model, which was valued within our communities. The move towards family hubs, with an inter-agency focus on prevention, was the next logical step.’
Consistent evidence demonstrates that one of the major obstacles to children in need florushing lies in their disrupted home life. Interventions need to focus on strengthening family relationships and Family Hubs offer the potential for a new model of delivery of co-ordinated support for children in need and their families. Family Hubs coordinate statutory and voluntary approaches to tackling the root causes of intergenerational poverty, family breakdown and poor outcomes for children.
"Family Hubs deliver holistic, early intervention services to a whole community. Their introduction is a clear next step to coordinate existing services and support."
All Party Parliamentary Group on Children’s Centres
Children’s Centres have always had an important role in early intervention, particularly in the early years. This inquiry shows that Centres are well placed to provide a wider range of services in the community as Family Hubs. These services include training and employment support, relationship support, parenting support and support for families with complex needs.
"The APPG believes that there is significant potential in the Family Hub model and urges local and central government to... fully realise Children’s Centres’ potential by transforming them into Family Hubs." page 23
Reviewing the role of Children’s Centres offers an opportunity to explore whether their remit might be extended to provide access to wider family and relationship support –becoming Family and Relationship Hubs. Joining up services increases efficiency by breaking down the barriers to relationship support, encouraging people to access help earlier, and enabling a wider range of professionals to think relationally. Families need access to the full spectrum of relationship support but to be most effective, Family and Relationships Hubs must incorporate services which focus on supporting the parental couple relationship.
‘The Relationships Alliance believes that there is currently a golden opportunity for the Government to act upon its stated commitment to improving family stability, by creating local hubs for access to family and relationship support, as part of its review of Children’s Centres…The idea of developing Family Hubs is gaining cross party support.’
The report provides practical examples of integrated systems across health and local authorities from conception to age five, in response to many local services and commissioners grappling with how best to deliver an effective integrated approach to early intervention. The report highlights some areas of good and promising practice.
‘A number of areas have developed, or are developing, a ‘Single Point of Access’ for professionals to refer a child with an identified need or to ask advice...Essex has established an Early Help Hub. Information, advice and guidance are available to advise practitioners on available services and offers an opportunity to discuss the best course of action including signposting to relevant support.’