The Family Hub
development process

Executive summary

This module is part of the strategic ‘golden threads’ section and is closely aligned with the Theory of Change and Evaluation modules. We recommend reading the leadership and governance modules before embarking on your family hub development process.  

This module outlines an approach to undertake the transformation to a family hub model. The family hub development process is a three-step approach to local implementation of a family hub model. It is a process that has been co-designed by the National Centre for Family Hubs and the What Works for Early Intervention and Children’s Social Care and has been piloted with five local authority areas.  

Each step of the family hub development process is designed to be undertaken by local areas through workshops with their key partners involved in the family hubs transformation. This module is designed to guide local authorities through the process to enable them to lead their local workshops independently.  

What is the family hub development process?

The family hub development process is a systematic approach to build the strategic case for family hubs locally, secure partner commitment to transformation and develop a robust implementation process.  

The process comprises three stages to support local authorities to develop a family hub model:

The first two stages are underpinned by a Theory of Change approach which encapsulates how the transformation to a family hub model can achieve the desired outcomes for your local area. The final stage explores the extent to which your partnership is ready to make the transformation to a family hub model and develops a robust approach to implementation and evaluation. Each of these three stages involve workshops with a variety of partners. 

Why undertake a family hub development process?

Implementing a family hub model is a whole-system transformation. Moving through this process will provide much of the content for a local early help strategy, which should capture local needs and outline what a family hub model will address along with agreed shared priorities and a shared practice framework.  

Articulating the local approach through a theory of change allows local stakeholders to make explicit and considered choices about key service design issues based on a local assessment of community needs and capacity. A developed theory of change will reinforce the use of evidence and evaluation as part of creating a local strategy for early childhood services.  

The family hub development process is about the journey of deepening understanding of the local context and transformation for a sustainable commitment to an integrated family hubs model. The outputs of these processes can provide a graphical representation of the shared vision for a local area, which can be used as motivation for the wider workforce or as a communications tool to encourage buy-in from key stakeholders.

  • How can this process close the gap for families accessing support? 

    The family hub development process promotes coproduction of a local theory of change model and implementation plan developed collaboratively with local partners and local families. The outputs from these collaborative workshops are bespoke to each local area to meet the needs of their specific community.  

    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. 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. 

Who needs to be involved?

This development process is a journey of active inquiry and dialogue through a series of workshops, 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 can offer support for local authorities undertaking this process. If you feel it would be useful to have an independent, external person facilitate these workshops, contact your Regional Implementation Advisor directly or email and we can talk you through the various options.

How does the family hub development process work?

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 your 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). For local authorities eligible to receive Family Hubs and Start for Life funding, the Management Information reporting requirements for this programme can be used to assess local service and population data for the funded areas of the programme. 

    Other important sources of data and analysis about local partnership arrangements available for children, young people and families include:

    1. 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 
    2. inspection self-assessments 
    3. self-assessments carried out using EIF maturity matrices, e.g., on maternity and early years services 
    4. local partnership audits and annual reports 
    5. local partnership strategies and plans for children, young people and families 
    6. equality impact assessment

    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.  

    Data collected as part of the reporting requirements for the Family Hubs and Start for Life programme can be used to assess population need in conjunction with other community data to build an accurate picture of local need. 

    Other important sources of data and analysis about local population needs for children, young people and families may include: 

    1. ethnographic research 
    2. surveys of specific population groups 
    3. local transformation plan  
    4. needs analysis data from population screening tools such as the ages and stages questionnaires, or maternal mental health screening  
    5. 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. 

  • Partnership commitment 

    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

Workshop 1 

Once the data and evidence have been gathered and analysed, the next step is to bring key stakeholders together in a workshop to consider the contextual assessments and identify key priorities for improvement.  

  • Objectives 
    1. Review the local systems strengths and areas for development 
    2. Confirm the primary outcomes for infants, children, young people and families, and the extent to which they are currently being achieved 
    3. Review strategic commitments to and readiness for transforming services for children and young people in the local area 
    4. Identify strategic risks and mitigations 
    5. Build consensus on the case for change 
  • Aim

    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 families. 

  • Tips
    1. Ensure the voice of the child, young person and family is clearly heard.  
    2. The contextual assessment should be 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. 
    3. Check that participants in the workshop represent the range of different experiences of the local system.  
    4. Ensure 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. 
    5. Keep discussion and interaction in mind and leave plenty of time for small group work to share different insights. 
    6. Consider language used and strive to balance strengths-based conversation (what’s going well?) with problem-focused conversation (what areas need improvement) so that the overall tone of the workshop is positive and focused on strengths-based outcomes.  
    7. Provide time for reflection by having a break of at least a few days before moving on to the second workshop. 
    8. Before the workshop, encourage local stakeholders to talk to families directly about their experiences of local support and/or visit a service they would not normally interact with to better understand how families experience this support. 
    9. After the workshop, have your needs assessment checked by someone external such as a peer authority or your NCFH Regional Implementation Advisor.

Resources to help you with your first workshop – coming soon: 

  • Agenda template 
  • PowerPoint presentation template 
  • Attendance checklist 
  • Data collection guidance 
  • Family hubs maturity self-assessment  

Stage 2 – developing a family hub approach

The second stage of the Family Hub Development Process focuses on the specific changes needed to deliver the improvements identified in Stage 1, and how they coincide with a family hub model.  

The first step is to draw together the conclusions from stage 1 and represent a summary of this using a 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 local options for developing a family hubs approach which responds to the case for change and is likely to deliver improved outcomes.  

For local authorities eligible to receive family hubs and Start for Life funding, it may be useful to develop a Theory of Change for each funded area to inform selection of outcome measures and which ‘go further’ elements to address: 

  • parent-infant relationships & perinatal mental health 
  • parenting support 
  • infant feeding support 
  • home learning environment

Workshop 2 

Through our piloting work with local areas, we have found that this stage of the family hubs development process takes the longest. It may feel necessary to split this stage into two or three workshops with a few days in-between to enable reflection on the Theory of Change model.   

  • Objectives
    1. Confirm the case for change. 
    2. Explore options for a local Family Hub approach. 
    3. Identify local strengths to be harnessed and local risks to be mitigated. 
    4. Agree key options for further scoping. 
    5. Identify how stakeholders will be involved in working up the key options. 
  • Aim

    By the end of this stage, local areas should have a business case for a local family hub model and 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.  

  • Output

    After Workshop 2, there are likely to be a number of smaller groups working up the specific elements which should form part of the local family hubs approach – essentially developing options appraisals. 

    Local area can bring the wider stakeholder group back together again to review and prioritise the options, or alternatively use 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. 

  • Tips
    1. Ensure the narrative about the case for change is clear and persuasive, and reflects the issues raised in Workshop 1. 
    2. Use examples of family hub approaches in the workshop to generate discussion and challenge thinking. 
    3. Check that participants in the workshop represent a range of different experiences of the local system, (as described for Workshop 1) 
    4. Keep discussion and interaction in mind and leave plenty of time for small group work to share different insights. 

Resources to help you with your second workshop – coming soon: 

Stage 3 – Planning Implementation 

Once the business case for the model has been approved, the third 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
  • Objectives

    Local areas will need to agree the partnership arrangements for project development including: 

    1. identify key delivery milestones and begin to develop an implementation plan. 
    2. confirm project management and governance arrangements to maintain progress and manage risks. 
    3. consider the projects approach to coproduction and broader stakeholder communication and engagement. 
    4. review the equality and inclusion implications of the implementation plan. 
    5. agree actions to develop the evaluation process and next steps
    6. review and update the project’s equality impact assessment. 
  • Tips

    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: 

    1. defined 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 
    2. monitoring and reporting processes to minimise the likelihood of drift and manage risk and issues 
    3. clear responsibilities for delivery of the change programme and related decision-making 
    4. 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 – this can be used to engage the wider stakeholder group in testing the proposed local arrangements for implementing the family hubs model 
  • The National Centre for Family Hubs evaluation module  

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