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Local ‘super hubs’ proposed to support families

For AttilaFamilies are our country’s most important asset. But too many are not getting the support they need to fulfil their potential. Some are just starting to struggle to cope with daily life while others are facing a complex mix of social, health and financial problems.

4Children’s Sure Start Children’s Centres census, published last month, showed a record number of families – up to 1 million of whom are on the brink of crisis – rely on centres.

Sure Start Children’s Centres aim to improve outcomes for children and families. They have endeavoured to do this through an integrated approach, helping a range of public services to work more closely together, crucially in health, social care and the troubled families programme.

But this week we are setting out plans to go further – with new Children and Family Community Hubs. These ‘super hubs’ will deliver and coordinate the full range of children and family services in one place, building on existing infrastructure, and rooted in the heart of every community.

Children and Family Hubs would further integrate the support we offer children and families by bringing GPs, health visitors together under one roof and the introduction of a new role – the social care family worker.

This would enable more multiagency working and information sharing – factors identified by the Department for Education as critical in detecting children and families at risk. Hubs aim to reduce the chances of children slipping through the net – and the pressure on an overstretched social care profession – by identifying and addressing problems earlier.

Children and Family hubs also have the potential to be part of a set of measures to overhaul social care – by taking a holistic family approach to integrating the work of partner organisations in the community. The new social care family worker would enable social workers to focus on more complex cases and help to identify problems earlier on, allowing us to prevent further problems down the line.

With unprecedented pressure on local authority budgets it is more crucial than ever to ensure public services are working in the most coordinated way and we know that many authorities are seeking to develop models and approaches of this kind. We know that investing in families who are beginning to struggle is a more cost effective way to use limited resources, rather than waiting until problems have escalated into costly crisis. However, reducing support for the most vulnerable families who are struggling to cope could leave many to fall into crisis with high social and economic costs for us all. Every year, £9bn is spent on the 500,000 families who are just coping with multiple and complex needs, according to the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel.

We have worked closely with local authorities to develop the blueprint for Children and Family Hubs which propose to build on the tried and tested approach in Sure Start Children’s Centres.

The hubs will extend the current integrated approach of support in Sure Start Children’s Centres for families of children aged 5 and under, to those up to the age of 19. Pregnancy and the birth of a child is a key time for parents to seek advice and support, especially from health services, which can result in other problems being spotted early and support provided.

Sure Start Children’s Centres are trusted sources of help and information at the heart of the communities they serve and they have more potential to improve outcomes for families across the country.

We are calling on all the main political parties to support Children and Family and Community Hubs, an innovative approach to supporting children and families by redesigning public services using existing resources to respond to local need.

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