How we can work with families in poverty

David Burrowes, Executive Director of Strengthening Families Manifesto

David Burrowes

As vulnerable children and their families struggle with isolation, conflict and poverty, we need community infrastructure so that there is no wrong door for them to access the family support they need.

The Early Intervention Foundation’s (EIF) new report, Planning early childhood services in 2020, states that ‘it is difficult to think of a more effective way in which the government might realise its vision to “level up” Britain and ensure equality of opportunity than through ensuring access to high-quality local family services which start in maternity and run throughout childhood.’ It goes on to say that “there is a logical case for more holistic and joined-up approaches to delivering area-based family services, which responds to concerns about a lack of service integration and artificial service boundaries”. Putting it bluntly – Family Hubs time has come.

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.

Recently the calls for progress in supporting family hubs have grown louder. The Children’s Commissioner wrote in July that “Some parents may want help to find work, or deal with the new strains on their relationship, or on their mental health, that can come with having a baby – and those stressful issues may also be making it harder for them to give their young children the loving attention they need. The Hubs would also have these more targeted services – including perinatal and infant mental health teams, JobCentre advisors, Speech and Language Therapists and housing teams – co-located within the service.”

Family law practitioners have also got on this case as they see far too many (40%) separating couples use fractious courts to determine child contact and residency. Last month the Family Solutions Group concluded that “crucially the Family Hub could provide the signposting and gateway to the range of other direct support services to children which are so sadly lacking at present.

The Government thankfully is on the same page with it’s manifesto commitment to “champion Family Hubs to serve vulnerable families with the intensive, integrated support they need to care for children – from the early years and throughout their lives.”

The Family Hubs Network is driving a family hubs movement characterised by:

  • A relational approach adopted by everyone who works in the Hub.
  • An understanding of the importance of Early Help and prevention.
  • A whole-family approach which focuses on disadvantaged and vulnerable children.
  • Families have somewhere they know they can go if they need information, advice or guidance for family and relationship issues.
  • Parents can get help for difficulties in their relationships with each other and not just with their children.
  • Integrated health and public health priorities, such as health visiting and maternity, with social services and Troubled Families programmes.

This month the DfE is taking the first steps in establishing a national centre for family hubs which will not only develop the evidence base but share good practice. There is no time to lose.