Executive summary

This module is part of the Strategic “golden threads” section and is closely aligned with the leadership module. We recommend reading these modules before embarking on your family hub development process 

This module provides information on effective governance and emphasises the importance of how good governance in conjunction with meaningful participation is key for sustaining family hubs and improving outcomes for children and families in the long term.  

Why is effective governance key to family hub development?

Establishing multiagency governance arrangements is an important starting point in developing and sustaining family hubs.  It enables partners to take collective responsibility, share risks and jointly invest in local family hub development.  

Effective governance should include meaningful participation. This describes a way of working  in which service providers and those in need of support are both recognised as stakeholders and are part of the same decision-making process. This is one way of understanding whether integrated delivery meets people’s needs. 

What does effective governance look like?

The family hub model framework sets out the key elements of effective governance arrangements for family hubs, which is best embedded in existing early help governance rather than being separate or replacing it. This will ensure that learning from all the government’s early intervention initiatives is pulled together into an integrated delivery approach

There should be clear links into the local safeguarding partnership and the health and wellbeing board.

  • Clear shared governance structures including an effective multi-agency board

    Governance structures must enable different agencies to take collective responsibility, share risks and jointly invest in early help, whole-family working and whole-system working, including the development of the family hub network. This should be mirrored at the local area by integrated operational management arrangements involving the voluntary, community and faith sectors as core partners. 

    You will need an effective multi-agency board in place to own a wider early help strategy in which the family hub approach will be detailed.  As mentioned above, the board should perform, or closely link to, strategic oversight of other core functions of integrated early help. These include Supporting Families , reducing parental conflict and other relevant agendas and partnership structures, such as local drugs strategy partnerships, school attendance strategies and partnerships, and violence reduction units.  

    Your board should identify routes to engage with, influence and inform decision-making about relevant systems, services and partnerships, including at integrated care system (ICS) level. For example, it’s important for the board to have a relationship with a local authority member of your integrated care partnership and board – through this route the board will be able to influence the ambitions for children and young people set out in the integrated care strategy. Family hubs are well placed to recognise service gaps and to collect data on the need for, and uptake of, services, which should inform ICS and wider children’s services planning.  

  • Involving families in governance arrangements

    The membership of the multi-agency board that is overseeing your early help strategy and delivery should represent the views of parents, carers and families. In addition, families and young people should play a role in co-designing family hub services and programmes by being involved in relevant governance arrangements. 

    Parent and carer panels which focus on conception to age two, should be used to help shape early years services in family hub models in each local area.   

  • Sub groups of the Board

    Agreeing sub groups of the Board is a way to progress the work and distribute the leadership amongst a variety of partners. This might be areas such as the Start for Life, perinatal mental health, buildings, digital solutions and workforce development. The Board should agree an annual plan for each working group annually and monitor their performance. 

    The multi-agency board should be linked to the local data governance board. Data-sharing routes should be considered with relevant agencies including health, children’s social care, education and the police.   

    In line with the Supporting Families’ early help system guide, there should be an effective data governance board in place that is accountable for progress on data transformation. This data governance board should support partners to unlock and resolve issues with data sharing and direct how data is used, both for performance and analytics and to enable partners to consult on any system changes that would impact across the partnership. 

    Data should be used by the partnership to support resourcing, planning, whole-family working and early intervention. An identified member of the children’s services senior leadership team should take responsibility for driving forward actions from the board. Data governance boards should either be a standalone board, or part of a wider partnership board. The data governance board should help drive the data transformation journey and roadmap. It should provide direction on how data is used to ensure effective services and to help unblock any data sharing issues. Representation should be at a senior level from across the partnership. 

  • What are the barriers to successful governance structures?

    A review of practice and research on children’s centres and family hubs carried out by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) found limited national data on how parents and carers are involved in governance arrangements. At a local level, the review found limited involvement of parents and carers in the planning and delivery of family hubs, and a decrease in the use of advisory boards or parent forums. In this review, and in a subsequent report on leading and delivering early childhood services, EIF identifies a number of issues that can hamper the ability of local areas to establish successful governance arrangements: 

    1. Governance structures arranged around the allocation of central government grants rather than an overall strategy, leading to a focus on specific projects rather than whole-area planning. 
    2. Reliance on operational leaders to drive local partnership arrangements or accountability for different elements of their work sitting across several different structures.  
    3. Complication resulting from incongruent geographical boundaries between local government and the health economy. 
    4. A lack of partnership-wide engagement mapping or strategies to support communities to drive change 
    5. A lack of incentives being offered to families for taking part in service design and delivery.  
    6. Time pressures for staff but also for families who were less likely to become involved in meetings due to poverty and working multiple jobs.  
    7. The lack of any external ‘push’ or incentive to gather family experience data 
    8. Language used by professionals may be off-putting for families, for example the term ‘panel’ may feel less welcoming than a ‘community conversation’ 
    9. Services were not accessible to all families, meaning that the voices of some families were less likely to be heard. 

Who needs to be involved in family hub governance?

  • Stakeholder engagement and partnership development

    You will need to engage a broad range of key stakeholders from across your local family services system. These stakeholders include strategic leads from the local authority including children’s, education and housing departments, then –  ICS, health,  and the voluntary, community and faith sectors, as well as families and young people. The local context needs to be reflected in the governance membership. Involving both your local children’s strategic partnership leaders and the partnership leaders overseeing local transformation planning will be key in agreeing partnership governance. The foundation built at the start will be crucial to the success of the programme.  

    It is important to agree how you will review your developments with your safeguarding board partners. You may wish to consider what role independent scrutiny might play in reviewing the impact and effectiveness of new family hub arrangements over time. 

    Early help and social care senior leaders will have a pivotal role to play in the transformation and governance of family hubs and we would expect active oversight from your director of children’s services. Wider community leaders and commissioners (including local authorities, integrated care boards and public health) and providers will all be important too. A wider stakeholder reference forum will likely be helpful to periodically update and talk with local leaders.  

    Engage leaders of adult services at an early stage to discuss the likely needs of parents and carers, who family hubs will serve, and to explore potential for integration. 

  • Building partnership governance arrangements

    Existing routes to partnership conversations, such as the annual conversations that take place to coordinate a system-wide self-assessment response to the Supporting Families Early Help System Guide, can also be built upon and utilised further. NCFH will provide further information on Community Engagement roles in subsequent toolkit modules on Workforce Planning.   

    The following questions have been developed to support you in building local partnership governance arrangements. They are based on learning from EIF’s work with local areas: 

    1. Who are the key partners and how will they be involved in the local partnership arrangements?  
    2. Who are those partners who are less likely to actively contribute but have a key role to play?  
    3. Which senior leaders and elected members are active champions and advocates?  
    4. How will families and communities codesign a strategy and be involved in decision-making processes?  
    5. How will service managers and other professionals drive strategy design and delivery?  
    6. How will decisions be made in the partnership context?  
    7. What are the partnership vision and priorities?  
    8. What are the key organisational leadership roles required to keep strategy delivery and implementation on track? Who is the senior sponsor? Who will lead the transformation? Who is going to lead for data and analysis activities? 
    9. What are the formal arrangements (including funding) for encouraging community members to take on leadership roles, and engaging parents, carers and communities in governance arrangements and decisions about resources?  
    10. Are working groups on any key areas needed, for example information sharing, community ownership, or measurement and evaluation? 
    11. How does family hub strategy connect with other local strategies for families and communities? 
    12. What common approaches could support coordinated working? 


    You will then need to: 

    1. publish partnership terms of reference  
    2. set out the partnership vision and priorities in a written strategy or theory of change  
    3. plan for implementation, create action plans to drive the change process and assess readiness for change. 


    For more on developing a theory of change to articulate your local family hub approach and plan for implementation, please see the family hub development process module.

  • Engaging families in governance arrangements

    You can read more about engaging families and young people in the design and delivery of family hubs in the co-production module. Based on insight from local areas, EIF suggests the following may be helpful ways to engage families in governance arrangements: 

    1. Use local strategy development as an opportunity to further develop engagement of parents/carers and communities in governance arrangements and decisions about resources.  
    2. Consider ways to encourage community members to take on leadership roles and identify ways of funding this in a sustainable way.  
    3. Create an explicit engagement strategy to formalise your work on community ownership.  

    Those developing family hubs may find it helpful to draw on the learning in areas that are further ahead on co-production, family engagement and parent-to-parent support, for example the five Lottery-funded Better Start sites in England. 

How can effective governance arrangements support the development of successful family hubs?

The most successful governance arrangements identified through EIF work with local areas include a mechanism for bringing together more senior strategic leaders and decision-makers, as well as an operational group of service managers and other partners who have more detailed knowledge of services, with clear lines of accountability and communication between the two. 

For more information on the governance arrangements from Westminster, Coventry and Essex, please see the case study library