The first two stages are underpinned by a theory of change approach which encapsulates why the change to a Family Hub model is necessary and the outcomes it aims to achieve. The final stage explores the extent to which the stakeholders are ready to make that change and develops a robust approach to implementation and evaluation against defined outcomes (focused on four areas of early intervention covering four key domains of child development: physical development, behavioural development, cognitive development, and social and emotional development).
These three steps ensure that the development of a local Family Hub model will have a sound evidence base, and will be clearly defined and robustly implemented and evaluated. Each of the three stages involve workshops with a variety of partners and there will be more detail on these steps later.
Why does the Family Hub development process matter to families?
When used in the context of lived experience, robust system-wide data evaluation to underpin local multiagency partnerships is key to improving local services for families. Research from the Supporting Families programme suggests that services work best together when relationships are strong and intelligence is shared, in order to understand the drivers of local trends, identify families who might need support and target services accordingly.
Each stage of the process builds on the foundation of what children, young people and families say they need; system-wide analysis; an evidence based model; and a robust approach to implementation and evaluation.
Why does the Family Hub development process matter to Family Hub implementation?
According to the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) report, Planning early childhood services in 2020: learning from practice and research on children’s centres and family hubs, the process of articulating the local approach through a theory of change allows local stakeholders to make explicit and considered choices about key service design issues. It allows local stakeholders to use the local assessment of community needs and contextual issues to create a bespoke approach to early childhood services, while retaining a focus on what developmental science tells us about the things children need to thrive; and a developed theory of change will reinforce the use of evidence and evaluation as part of creating a local strategy for early childhood services.
This whole-system approach is about effective delivery and ensuring children, young people and families can access services and support through a single access point. Developing a theory of change can help to ensure all stakeholders and service providers within a local Family Hub have a shared language for an integrated model of service provision and hold shared outcomes for the families they serve.
Who needs to be involved?
This development process is a journey of active inquiry and dialogue rather than a static, desk-based piece of work (although the desk-based work is crucial!). In practice, engaging stakeholders through a series of meaningful workshops at each stage of the process will encourage shared ownership of the process and model to be implemented.
Workshop participants should reflect the main stakeholders in the local area and are likely to include a cross-section of managers and practitioners from key agencies, representatives from the voluntary and community sector (VCS) and service users. The make-up of the group will vary from one area to another but at a minimum should include:
The National Centre for Family Hubs (NCFH) team of regional coordinators will support the those leading Family Hub development as they progress through the Family Hub development process. These regional coordinators are able to offer a range of support, including co-facilitation of workshops with the local lead or project manager, signposting to tools and guidance, and access to peer support opportunities and learning events.
How: good practice – what are the key ingredients for success?
This section provides a suggested structure, guidance and resources to support the Family Hub development process.
Stage 1: building consensus on the need for change
The first step of the process establishes the foundation for the programme of change. It supports the local area to gather local data to assess the current delivery of support for infants, children, young people and families in the context of need.
This data collection should involve:
- local system assessment, illustrating how well services are working together in your area
- population needs assessment, understanding the needs of families in your area
- an analysis of other existing evidence and research (both local and national).
The voice and experience of infants, children, young people and families should be prioritised in all these areas.
As part of this data collection it is important to recognise that there are a range of key types of evidence which help to give a fuller picture of the local system, including organisational data, community data, lived experience, practitioner experience, and wider research on what works and on population needs.
Local system assessment
A key source of data and analysis on local multiagency arrangements for children, young people and families is the Early help system guide (EHSG), which the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) (previously the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) asks each local authority area to complete on an annual basis. The next return is expected to be completed between January and March 2022 and has been adapted with Family Hubs in mind.
Other important sources of data and analysis about local partnership arrangements available for children, young people and families include:
- -the Reducing Parental Conflict planning tool which the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) asks local areas to complete on an annual basis as part of the national Reducing Parental Conflict (RPC) programme
- -inspection self-assessments
- -self-assessments carried out using EIF maturity matrices, e.g., on maternity and early years services
- -local partnership audits and annual reports
- -local partnership strategies and plans for children, young people and families
- -equality impact assessments.
These sources of data should be brought together in a single narrative assessment which describes the local strengths and areas for development in how the local multi-agency system supports children and families.
Access, connection and relationships are the ‘three pillars’ the Department for Education (DfE) is seeking to address through the Family Hub programme. As part of this assessment it is worth considering how effectively the local arrangements enable families to access help and support; how well-connected local services are with each other in how they support families; and how far the local arrangements prioritise relationships and family strengths.
Population needs assessment
Population needs assessment is an established and fundamental element of the cycle to plan and deliver services at a community level, to inform implementation and evaluation, and to prioritise outcomes. Every local area has a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA). Although these will vary in how recently they have been carried out and how thoroughly they describe population needs and priorities for families, they are an important starting point for understanding the needs of the local population, including vulnerable families and those with protected characteristics.
There may also be needs assessments that relate to specific groups of children and families, for example, those with mental health needs or special educational needs and disabilities.
Other important sources of data and analysis about local population needs for children, young people and families may include:
- -ethnographic research
- -surveys of specific population groups, e.g., exploring the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on parents and carers from minoritised ethnic groups
- -data collected about child, young person and parent experience of services
- -Local Transformation Plan needs analysis
- -data from population screening tools such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaires, or maternal mental health screening
- -national analysis, which predicts population trends and prevalence and administrative data sets, is particularly helpful where there is limited local data. Examples of national datasets are the Public Health England fingertips tool and the Children’s Commissioner’s Local vulnerability profiles.
As with the local system assessment, the different sources of data about population needs for children and families should be brought together in a single narrative assessment which identifies the challenges and pressures prevalent in the local area and which need to be taken into account as part of local strategy.
Developing and implementing a successful Family Hub model requires a significant commitment across the local partnership. It may also be helpful at this stage to assess the extent to which the organisational environment (e.g. values and culture) is ready to begin the process.
There is often a temptation to focus on the more tangible aspects of implementing a programme of change. However, investing time at the beginning of the process in developing a shared set of values and principles amongst key stakeholders is an invaluable element in achieving sustainable success.
Strategic Manager, One Point and Think Family Service, Durham County Council
There are several tools that can assist local areas to consider this including a Readiness for Change tool which will be available to local areas.
Once the data and evidence have been gathered and analysed, the next step is to bring key stakeholders together to consider the contextual assessments and identify key priorities for improvement.
The objectives of the first stakeholder workshop should be to:
- review the local system strengths and areas for development
- confirm the primary outcomes for infants, children, young people and families, and the extent to which they are currently being achieved
- review strategic commitments to and readiness for transforming services for children and young people in the local area
- identify strategic risks and mitigations
- build consensus for the case for change.
This step is more likely to be successful if:
- the voice of the infant, child, young person and family is clearly heard
- the contextual assessment is clear and simple; considers the whole system, rather than the priorities of a single organisation; and is shared in advance of the workshop so that stakeholders can reflect and prepare
- participants in the workshop represent the range of different experiences of the local system, and include: senior leaders and decision-makers; commissioners and those responsible for local strategy; service leaders and managers; operational staff who understand how services match the needs of children, young people and families; and families themselves
- the workshop and wider process has an explicit and multi-agency mandate from the senior leaders who are responsible for the local partnership arrangements for maternity, children, young people and families
- the workshop and the wider process is designed with discussion and interaction in mind, leaving plenty of time for small group work to share different insights.
Local stakeholders may also want to prepare for the workshop by talking directly to families about their experiences of local support, or by visiting a service they wouldn’t normally interact with to better understand how families experience this support.
By the end of this stage, local areas should be able to articulate why change is needed locally, based on a consensus around the primary outcomes for children and families, an assessment of who is vulnerable and at risk of not thriving, and an analysis of how local services can improve how they respond to these vulnerable families.
NCFH will support local areas to conduct this stage through a network of regional coordinators, providing advice, tools and opportunities to interact with other areas.
This will include:
- workshop templates
- practice case studies
- tools and online surveys, including those on ‘readiness for change’
- guidance on practice and evidence as part of the Family Hubs implementation toolkit
- guidance on the conceptual frameworks underpinning this work, including theory of change.
Stage 2: specifying a Family Hub approach
The second stage of the development process focuses on the specific changes needed to deliver the improvements identified in Stage 1, and how a Family Hub approach can be designed with this in mind.
The first step is to draw together the conclusions from Stage 1 and represent a summary of this using a simple theory of change structure:
Local areas may want to consider the Supporting Families outcomes framework to guide their definition of primary outcomes, and they can also take account of four key domains of child development: physical development, behavioural development, cognitive development, and social and emotional development.
The next step is to engage wider stakeholders in identifying and specifying local options for a Family Hubs approach which responds to the case for change and is likely to deliver improved outcomes.
The objectives of the second stakeholder workshop should be to:
- confirm the case for change
- explore options for a local Family Hub approach
- identify local strengths to be harnessed and local risks to be mitigated
- agree key options for further scoping
- identify how stakeholders will be involved in working up the key options.
This step is more likely to be successful if:
- the narrative about the case for change is clear and persuasive, and reflects the issues raised in Workshop 1
- examples of Family Hubs approaches are used in the workshop to generate discussion and challenge thinking
- participants in the workshop represent a range of different experiences of the local system, as described for Workshop 1
- the workshop process is designed with discussion and interaction in mind, leaving plenty of time for small group work to work through different ideas and options.
Local stakeholders may also want to prepare for the workshop by visiting or talking to other local areas that have developed a Family Hub approach.
After Workshop 2 there are likely to be a number of smaller groups working up the specific elements which could form part of the local Family Hubs approach – essentially developing options appraisals.
It may be that the local area chooses to bring the wider stakeholder group back together again to review and prioritise the options, or alternatively uses existing partnership governance arrangements to get agreement on a local approach in principle. This can trigger the local process for developing and agreeing the business case required for change, including completing an equality impact assessment to understand any differential impact on population groups with protected characteristics.
The key method for describing the local approach should be the theory of change.
By the end of this stage, the local area should have:
- a business case for a local Family Hub approach
- a theory of change which sets out why a Family Hub approach is needed, who it is for, how it will work, what the expected short- and medium-term impacts are, and how this will deliver improved outcomes for families. It also needs to clearly set out outcomes the partnership wishes to achieve by introducing a Family Hubs model.
NCFH will support local areas to conduct this stage through a network of regional coordinators, providing advice, tools and opportunities to interact with other local areas.
This will include:
- workshop templates
- practice case studies, including different Family Hub approaches, to support and challenge local option development
- guidance on practice and evidence as part of the Family Hub Implementation toolkit, including on coproduction and evaluation
- guidance on the conceptual frameworks underpinning this work, including theory of change.
Stage 3: planning implementation
Once the business case for the model has been approved, this third and final stage of the process focuses on:
- developing the implementation plan
- establishing project management and governance arrangements
- determining the evaluation plan
- exploring how well prepared, or ready, the partnership is for the introduction of the model.
This is likely to be a complex change programme, with several interdependent areas of activity and multiple stakeholders. Local areas will need to agree the partnership arrangements for project development:
- identify key delivery milestones and begin to develop an implementation plan
- confirm project management and governance arrangements to maintain progress and manage risks
- consider the projects approach to coproduction and broader stakeholder communication and engagement
- review the equality and inclusion implications of the implementation plan
- agree actions to develop the evaluation process and next steps
- review and update the project’s equality impact assessment.
It is important that there is a well-defined and realistic implementation plan embedded within a robust project management framework. A good project management framework will include:
- a defined set of roles and resources to deliver the programme; it is highly likely that a local transformation team will be required to successfully implement a complex project of this nature
- monitoring and reporting processes to minimise the likelihood of drift and manage risk and issues
- clear responsibilities for delivery of the change programme and related decision-making
- an effective evaluation process, focused on measuring impact against the outcomes defined earlier in the process and defined as part of the implementation planning process.
EIF’s Readiness for change tool may be useful in engaging the wider stakeholder group in testing the proposed local arrangements for implementing the Family Hubs approach.
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