Participation case example: Nottinghamshire


Nottinghamshire started its family hubs journey in 2021, this started with the Best Start and Early Help strategies which identified family hubs a key delivery mechanism for early help and the Best Start for Life offer.

The first step was to work with the seven district councils and three integrated care partnerships and review data to identify priority neighbourhoods. Nottinghamshire initially identified three pilot areas and then began consultation with local families, young people and stakeholders. This case study focuses on one of these localities in the north of the county.


Why the consultation took place and who was involved?

Three phases of consultation were carried out:

  1. To confirm a family hub was needed in the area and identification of needs from local families – through questionnaires.
  2. Shape your family hub – to identify the main areas that families and stakeholders wanted to be addressed (we also used this phase to consult on new family hub branding) – through three co-production workshops.
  3. To confirm the main areas that families and stakeholders wanted to prioritise – through an event.

The following groups were consulted:

  • parents and carers including the parents and carers forum (SEND focus) and maternity voices partnership
  • young people (via schools and youth services)
  • professionals – district council, local schools, colleges and early years settings, voluntary and community sector organisations, community and hospital NHS services, young people’s services, children’s centre service staff, SENDCo networks.

What happened?

The Retford site in Bassetlaw Nottinghamshire is the first design site for the county in a children centre building. Consultation was carried out online and using hard copy questionnaires.

Family hub consultation findings included:

  • 86 responses (70% from parents/carers, 18% from professionals, 12% young people)
  • 70% of adults who responded said that would prefer the building to be a Family Hub.
  • 64% of young people said they would prefer the building to be a family hub.
  • most parents and stakeholders said they would find child development, play and early learning sessions, parenting groups, managing children’s behaviour and local access to specialist service to be most useful if they were made available at the family hub.
  • access to health services, (including midwifery and healthy families teams) and activities for young people were also felt to be useful
  • young people want their own dedicated space

This consultation then led to further local co-production activities with local families and stakeholders and three events were held:

  1. Retford family hub breakfast
  2. Young people’s event
  3. Partner’s get together

These events were aimed at young people, parents and partners to provide the opportunity for greater feedback and involvement to shape the development of family hubs for Retford.

Below is a summary of the key themes that were highlighted as part of the discussions:

  • more support for parents, children and siblings of children with SEND
  • parents/carers value peer support
  • postnatal support could be better
  • services and support need to be more accessible, this is important to parents and partners
  • young people don’t understand the term ‘services’ and don’t know whether they use them
  • young people are happy for their parents/carers to access a family hub
  • young people at Retford youth centre feel they are not representative of all young people and that we should approach more young people in schools
  • Partners greatly appreciated the opportunity to come together, network and understand what each other do – more of this is needed
  • family hubs are a much needed and positive approach to supporting families.

Feedback was compiled into newsletters which were circulated to local communities, the Retford newsletter is available here.


The learning from the co-production activities resulted in the children’s centre service community development worker accessing already established groups to ensure that families were given the opportunity to be involved in the shaping of the services in the family hub.

One of the most common areas of feedback from families was which services and support was available to them and where and how they could access this support. By working with local partners, it was agreed that a local event be held for families. As a result of the this, the Retford easter extravaganza was planned to bring the community, families, children, young people and partners together. The event was held during the holidays and included free activities for families.

Over a hundred families and 20 partners attended the event. Whilst families accessed information from various services through the marketplace, the event was also used as an opportunity to progress further consultation. Families and partners were consulted and the local church where it was to be held.
The Easter Bunny and Peppa Pig attended with the children centre service and youth service providing activities for the children and young people.
Partners were asked to provide an interactive activity as opposed to standing behind a table with a leaflet.

Feedback from the Easter Extravaganza

The event feedback has been incredibly positive with comments such as;

Partner feedback about the event:

  • “Run it again”
  • “Some of the people that approached us wouldn’t have without this event”
  • “Lots of interactions, engagements and conversations”
  • “Nice atmosphere, lots of footfall, space great, my favourite event of this type!”

Feedback from families when asked about the good things about bringing up children in Retford:

  • “Access to great groups that exist in the community”
  • “It was great to get visibility of the groups that exist at today’s event to support parents and families in the community”
  • “Children’s Centre”
  • “Play Groups”
  • “Emotional Support”
  • “Nice well-kept parks”

Feedback from families when asked what could be better:

  • “More things for when children get older”
  • “SEND support”
  • “More inside places to play and afterschool clubs”
  • “More holiday activities for children over five”

Next steps:

  • Co-production will be built into shaping the family hub and the outcomes and learning will be shared wider.
  • Use the learning from this event to make sure future events are even better.

How were challenges overcome?

The main challenge was to ensure that underrepresented families in the area were engaged in events:

  • A local partnership meeting was established as soon as the location for the family hub was identified. Members of the partnership were engaged at regular intervals and could see their ideas being progressed. This ownership helped to engage families through trusted professionals and organisations.
  • By providing a free breakfast for the co-production event for families, we were able to attract families into the family hub building.
  • As the family hub does not have any social media presence yet, we used existing social media channels of local organisations including children’s centre service, youth service etc. to advertise opportunities to get involved and to promote the event.
  • The only challenge was advertising the event as we don’t have a Facebook page so had to use existing social media from local services.

There are a wide range of local organisations and partners in the area and local organisations were not always aware of each other. The family hub development process created time to engage with partners on a 1-2-1 before inviting them into meetings.

Relationship building is key. An outcome of the easter extravaganza event is that partners want a pack to help them navigate the system for families (this will be progressed through our virtual family hub as well as local communications work).

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