This report provides an update on the delivery associated with the recent Cabinet approval to spend the Family Hubs & Start for Life grant using the approach outlined.
The Chair invited Susan Clayton, Head of Service Early Help and Family Engagement and Alex Hawley, Consultant in Public Health to introduce the report and presentation.
At the autumn budget, the Government announced their ambition to have a network of family hubs across the country to create a strong start for life. These would offer parenting programmes, breastfeeding support and infant-parent mental health support. In April 2022, the Government announced that 75 local authorities would receive funding directly.
The ethos of the family hubs programme was to make services more accessible for children and families. Those services could be provided through using a physical space but there was also a big emphasis on having virtual spaces for those who were able to self-serve. The family hubs programme needed to be attuned to the needs of local families to ensure they get the right help at the right time. The community and voluntary sector were a big part of the whole family support service being offered as well to reduce the amount of times families were being moved between services.
The programme would enable the creation of a single digital offer combining the different websites and platforms available to families, children and young people. The programme would also transform the way existing services were delivered, with emphasis around co-location. This did not mean co-location in terms of being in the same office but was also around ensuring that pathways were aligned and joined up between services so that they could be accessed in person at a family hub or another building or through the digital offer.
The services being provided would need to be clearly branded and communicated so that these could be clearly identified by families who were signed up to the family hubs programme.
Whilst there was still a key emphasis on the Start for Life offer within the family hubs programme it now brought together services for families with children of all ages, 0-19 or up to 25 with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). It was important that family hubs would become a place that welcomed everyone and not just those with problems.
There were key family hubs principles around enabling services to be brought together, better collaboration, working across the public, private, voluntary and community sectors. The family hub model that had been agreed included ‘Family Hub Plus’ settings in the north, south and central of the borough, along with ‘Family Hub Extra’ and ‘Family Hub Satellite’ settings. The main difference between the Plus and Extra settings was space. The three buildings that had been earmarked as the family hub plus settings were Maltby Steppingstones children’s centre, the Swinton, Brookfield children’s centre and at the moment The Place as the central location.
It was noted that The Place and Swinton Brookfield were not large buildings, which was why other buildings would become ‘extra’ hubs to allow delivery of the required services to continue. A number of voluntary sector organisations were committed to become a family hub satellite site, meaning once they had been signed up to the digital offer, they could be able to make appointments and offer support.
The programme was a joint effort between the Public Health and Children and Young People Services teams but had also included many other services as well. Its aim was to empower the community and support more skilled parenting.
The Chair invited questions leading to the following points being raised during the course of discussions:
· It was noted that the report mentioned short term capacity upon which it was explained that funding was being provided until March 2025.
· All screenings and any other data collected would be kept in line with existing data legislation.
· Many of the existing sites and centres already accepted donations of school uniform and clothes to assist where needed.
· The support offered through this programme is inclusive and would be offered to all in need, whether they were single or part of a couple.
· Support for early miscarriage had been identified as an area where further support could be provided through the hubs as provision of support for miscarriages at other times was already available.
· It was clarified that services would not just be provided in the locations identified earlier. There were plans to make use of various buildings, such as libraries and other community buildings, where appropriate, to provide services within a reasonable distance for families.
· It was explained that all the staff understood the communities in their localities. There was a desire to ensure that there were no gaps in provision across the borough, through the use of satellite hubs.
· Schools were at the heart of communities, and it was hoped that every school would have a link officer. It was also hoped that the parenting programmes could be delivered within schools.
· The hubs and services would be for all Rotherham families, not just those in need of support.
· It would be of great benefit to have school nurses, health visitors and other same co-located being able to share knowledge and reduce working in silos.
· It was clarified that nothing would change for the existing approach used by Pause but there was a desire to change the mainstream approaches such as on hospital wards, for example signs being placed on the door where a child has been lost so people are respectful of that loss and advice could be given on how best to support them.
· Discussions were taking place with Asset Management regarding buildings that could be utilised as hubs enabling easier access for children and families along with being able to house multidisciplinary professionals.
· It was understood that not everyone had the ability to access the digital offer, therefore systems would be put in place to enable someone else to request support leading to a phone call or contact back to the family.
The Chair thanked Susan and Alex for the presentation and asked that in terms of recommendation two, that the service provide details of the most approrpriate time for the Improving Lives Select Commission to receive the further update on progress.
1. Members of the Improving Lives Select Commission note the intended use of the grant to ‘transform’ family help and support services.
2. Members of the Improving Lives Select Commission agree to receive a further update on progress of the Family Hubs transformation programme and the delivery of the Early Help Strategy.