Any strategy aimed at improving lives of those in the poorest parts of the country needs to recognise the importance of supportive and nurturing family relationships and alongside health and education, family support is an indispensable – but often lacking – aspect of the welfare state. Our long-standing recommendation that the Government champion Family Hubs was adopted at the last general election. Family Hubs provide vital services and support for families in the early years of their children’s lives and early help when families begin to experience difficulties.
Family Hubs are centres which ensure families with children and young people aged 0-19 receive early help to overcome a range of difficulties and build stronger relationships. Effective early intervention can reduce family poverty, improve mental health and lead to lower crime, unemployment and other negative outcomes which carry significant cost to the public purse.
To help the Government, local councils and communities ensure all families who need help with relationship and other challenges can easily access it, I founded the Family Hubs Network with Dr Samantha Callan. The Network is a bottom-up movement which connects those running existing Hubs through the information provided on our website and our events. We advocate for the spread of Family Hubs by increasing awareness among national and local policy makers and commissioners and disseminate news about innovative and effective work on the front line of family support. We also argue that integrating health with family support to make both as accessible as possible and prevent problems from escalating, needs to be a priority in the forthcoming Health and Care Bill.
New Family Hubs are opening all the time through this ‘bottom-up’ change which we want to help policy-makers and politicians in national and local government understand. We set up the Family Hubs Network as an infrastructure organisation to help grow and give shape to this emerging movement. We want to provide a learning environment where local authorities and others can share examples of good practice, journeys of system change, and how they have formally and informally evaluated their progress. Currently we are in touch with 82 local authorities who are on this journey and, so far, 127 Family Hubs in 18 local authority areas have registered on our website. We also provide support to local authorities and their partners on a consultancy basis.