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New guidance published for Start for Life and Family Hubs Programme

children services

The Government has today published the technical note explaining the methodology used to identify the 75 local authorities pre-selected for the Family Hubs and Start for Life programme.

The list of 75 pre-selected local authorities outlines the local authorities pre-selected for the programme. In publishing the methodology, the Government has explained how pre-selected local authorities will be eligible for funding subject to confirmation that the local authority can deliver the programme’s requirements.

The methodology for allocating funding to the eligible 75 local authorities explains how funding will be allocated to participating local authorities.

Building a network

In October 2021, as part of the Autumn budget, the Government announced £301.75 million to transform Start for Life and Family Hub services in 75 upper-tier local authorities across England.

The Government planned to build a network of Family Hubs, Start for Life and family help services, including breastfeeding services, parenting programmes and parent-infant mental health support.

In a technical publication, the Government has published the methodology used to identify the 75 local authorities pre-selected for the programme.

Pre-selected local authorities are areas that will be eligible for funding subject to confirmation that the local authority can deliver the programme’s requirements. The eligibility criteria were focussed under three general principles:

  1. Funding should be targeted at areas with the highest levels of deprivation.
  2. Ensure that there is sufficient representation from predominantly urban communities. This being, urban with significant rural and predominantly rural populations.
  3. That data is robust and publicly available to ensure transparent conclusions.

A central goal of the methodology discussed is to increase data sharing between health and social care professionals in the Family Hub system. By doing this, it is believed that families will increase trust with professionals as they will only need to communicate their sensitive stories once, as the professionals will have the data on a specific family readily accessible.

Dame Andrea Leadsom talks to Andrea King, Director of the Clinical Division of the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families about Family Hubs

Start for Life and Family Hubs Programme objectives

The Government is keen to see joined up and enhanced services delivered through transformed family hubs in local authority areas, ensuring all parents and carers can access the support they need when they need it.

Through the programme, the Government hopes that parents and carers should feel supported and empowered in caring for and nurturing their babies and children, ensuring they receive the best start in life. Ultimately, a central ambition of this strategy is to reduce the poverty to prison pipeline for the most deprived children. By creating a sufficient integrated system, the scheme aims to equip professionals with the resources to tailor specific care for families, by creating a “a team around the family” at the earliest opportunity.

Their objective is to improve health and education outcomes for babies and children and enable them to thrive in later life.

In summary, the programme intends to:

  • Provide support to parents and carers so they can nurture their babies and children, improving health and education outcomes for all.
  • Contributeto a reduction in inequalities in health and education outcomes for babies, children and families across England by ensuring that support provided is communicated to all parents and carers, including those who are hardest to reach and/or most in need of it.
  • Build the evidence base for what works when it comes to improving health and education outcomes for babies, children and families in different delivery contexts.
Start for Life Facebook Group
To find out more about Start for Life, join the Facebook group.

Reducing inequalities

Through the transformation in the ways that services are designed and delivered, the Government is conscious of poor outcomes and rising inequalities in deprived communities around the country.

However, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, Helen Hayes has repeatedly branded plans for family hubs across the UK as a “pale imitation” of Sure Start centres. Highlighting the cuts to services, Labour have been keen to highlight that more than 1,000 centres have closed over the last decade.

“There is a need to replace that provision and support for families, but family hubs are a pale imitation,” Hayes added.

As early as February this year, the Labour team has called on the Government to set out the plans. With the cost of living hitting families hard, the announcement today will go some way to help families as they struggle with childcare and support services.

However, with no new Government in place for several weeks, it looks doubtful that a full implementation plan will be set out until the Autumn.

CEO of parenting programme Triple P, Matt Buttery commented:

“Family Hubs will become important focal point for local communities. The vision for them is to become a place where parents and their children can go to ensure they get the support they need to thrive. We have already been speaking to a number of Local Authorities about how they can meet the Hub requirements, and hope to see a major role for evidence-based parenting programmes within this.

“Whilst we welcome the expansion of Family Hubs across many parts of England, we must make sure this important initiative becomes universal, and every family has access to high quality support they need. We look forward to working with Local Authorities to ensure that this ambition can be realised.”

Final thought

Given how long it has taken for the Government to publish today’s programme guide for the Family Hubs and Start for Life Programme, some have been quick to question whether the detail was out of date even before publication?

The methodology needs rigorous scrutiny, however there is a welcomed level of detail for policy makers to scrutinise.

The 2019 Conservative manifesto set out that “Family hubs offer support to families from conception and two, and to those with children of all ages, which is 0-19 or up to 25 for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), with a great Start for Life offer at their core.”

As the Curia commission assesses the co-ordination of care for people living with dyslexia, it is important that the services relating to SEND are joined up and well evidenced. The Commission looked at how a SEND population needs assessment could be co-ordinated through a family hubs structure and it is now important to ensure that the implementation of the programme happens as soon as possible.

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