Council signals plans to transition from Children’s Centres to Family Hubs

Children in Devon and their families will see a new model of support services, in line with national Government guidance.

Since first introduced in the late 1990s in response to the Government-led Sure Start initiative, Children’s Centres in Devon have supported thousands of young children and their parents, with targeted early years support and other services.

But last year, the Government proposed a new initiative, and now the Department for Education and the Department for Health and Social Care are working with local authorities across the UK to roll out their ‘Start for Life’ programme and develop Family Hub programmes in accordance with local need.

Devon County Council have announced that they want to start a transition from Children’s Centres to Family Hubs in Devon.  This would include working with partners and stakeholders to shape the model, which is likely to take 12 months, with a view to developing a county-wide Family Hubs programme to begin in 2025.   

The Government says that Family Hubs will improve families’ access to services, describing them as “…a local innovation, developed to meet local needs and better support families.”

They’ll do that by developing and growing partnerships with existing voluntary groups and charities that already support parents of young children in local communities.

They will focus on a partnership approach for early help and support for families and children aged 0 to 9 including support for children with special educational needs and disabilities. 

Exactly which services each Family Hub will deliver will develop from what local families need, but examples of the sorts of advice, information, intervention and support that Family Hubs in Devon may deliver could include:

  • early help and prevention services, delivered by Devon County Council
  • wider early years services and education
  • Public Health, Public Health Nursing and Midwifery services and support, as part of the government’s Best Start in Life initiative
  • activities, support and opportunities being made available locally by community groups, charities and the voluntary sector
  • drug, alcohol and domestic abuse or violence support
  • wider health support for children and young people including mental health support and neurodevelopmental support
  • community activity based short breaks offered for disabled children and young people
  • youth services
  • services for families with adolescents

Children’s Centres in Devon are currently run on our behalf by the charity, Action for Children.

Action for Children is already working closely with other councils including in Plymouth and Torbay to develop Family Hubs,. They will now also work with us to start the process of introducing  Family Hubs to the rest of the county.

Our current contract with Action for Children expires at the end of March 2024, but Councillors have agreed a new 12-month contract with the charity, from April 2024, to develop and start to pilot the new Family Hubs model across the county.

In the meantime, Children’s Centres in Devon will continue to support families.

 

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member with responsibility for children’s services, said:

“We are at the very start of this journey and with our partner, Action for Children, we want to work closely with the children and families that currently access Children’s Centre services.

“The 12-month programme of development with Action for Children will enable us to examine what services are needed across Devon and where, and what local capacity there is in those communities to help meet the needs of local families.

“Naturally we want to ensure that children and families who currently access support from our Children’s Centres, will continue to be able to access support from our Family Hubs in future, whether that’s from dedicated professionals, or delivered in the community by local groups.

“Our Children’s Centres are greatly valued by families that use them, and we are delighted to continue working with Action for Children as we make this transition.  We’ll also benefit from their experience in having already begun this work with other neighbouring local authorities.”

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