At Westminster City Council, extensive work is taking place to deliver integrated services from the time of conception to two years across three Family Hub sites: Bessborough Family Hub, Portman Early Childhood Centre and Queen’s Park Children’s Centre.
A wide range of services is delivered through Family Hubs, including health visiting, midwifery, baby groups, support around special needs and disability and mental health support groups for families. Bessborough offers Café Mama sessions, where families with children under the age of one can drop in to receive infant feeding support and advice. Similar services are delivered at the Portman and Queen’s Park sites.
The Council works hard to ensure that the professionals who support families work together in a joined-up way and maximise the support available through the voluntary sector to enhance opportunities for families. One example is the commissioning of maternity champions, a trained team of local volunteers who provide support for expectant and new parents. The hubs also run a befriending volunteer service for families with children aged up to five. Outreach is a key component of the model, with teams dedicated to engaging with vulnerable and isolated families as a core service at the hub. Birth registrations on-site are set to restart, following a pause during the coronavirus pandemic.
Westminster is also currently in the process of commissioning an integrated pre-birth to five service model where health visitors will form part of the wider early help service. These models aim to ensure that all practitioners are best equipped to deliver on the national and local commitments for The Best Start for Life.
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight was one of the first areas of the country to develop Family Hubs. With three main Family Hubs and six ‘spoke’ sites, the island’s children and families are able to access joined-up early help and support in their local community. Effective early support can improve children’s wellbeing, educational attainment and life chances. Working with families and the wider community, the Isle of Wight Family Hubs draw on a strength-based, restorative approach, developing families’ own capabilities and community resilience.
The hubs offer a wide range of support for families with children aged 0–19 (including antenatal support), ranging from appointments with health professionals (e.g., midwives and health visitors), to open Stay & Play sessions for families, to more intensive and bespoke family support.
Midwifery-led antenatal sessions, Five to Thrive for new parents, DadzClub, breastfeeding support, toddler talk early language groups, healthy eating groups, support to young carers and intensive family support in family workers classes are all delivered at the Family Hubs.
There is also a wide range of parenting courses for parents, carers and families, including Baby Incredible Years and the Family Links Nurturing Programme, as well as specialist programmes relating to special needs and disabilities and adolescence. Parents can access relationship support to help or rebuild existing relationships and during or after separation. Family time (contact) is provided at the centres for children in care, offering a safe, secure and child-friendly space where parents and carers can access the wide range of support on offer.
The hubs also offer volunteering opportunities, together with support and guidance to access education, employment and training, and career development through partnership working with the Department for Work and Pensions and work coaches.
Doncaster, a local authority with an urban population, has 12 Family Hubs delivering services across the 0–25 age range. Among other objectives, these aim to:
- enhance parents’ wellbeing and emotional and mental health
- improve parenting and the quality of parent–child relationships
- improve children’s early language and literacy
- improve children’s early social and behavioural skills
- enhance children’s wellbeing and emotional and mental health.
Doncaster offers a wide range of services for the critical Start for Life period. Its coordinated, multiagency approach to identifying need during pregnancy enables the coordination of timely and appropriate support to meet those needs before the birth of baby. This paves the way for parents to be better prepared for birth and family life. Prenatal maternal health advice and support is offered at Family Hubs, alongside emotional and mental health support for parents and carers, and baby and infant health advice. Midwives and health visitors are based at the hubs, which is particularly valuable in establishing trusting relationships between parents, carers and professionals. Family Hubs deliver interactive Stay & Play sessions and parenting programmes that support the development of high-quality parent–child interaction and parenting.
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Read more: Case study: Best Start for Life