Youth and family hubs

Introduction

This module is aimed at commissioners, Directors of Children’s Services and leaders involved in service design and improvement of family hub models, with a particular focus on those involved in the design and commissioning of youth provision in local authorities. 

Reading this module and reflecting on the questions posed should give you: 

  1. an overview of youth services and why it’s important to integrate these into family hubs 
  2. information about how youth services and the family hub approach can integrate, and varying degrees of integration that can be achieved 
  3. ideas for how to improve implementation of youth provision within family hubs in your local area. 

This module was created in collaboration with the National Centre for Family Hubs (NCFH) participation advisors Dina Koschorreck and Nasreen Siddique, and the following organisations:  

  • National Youth Agency 
  • Youth Endowment Fund 
  • Barnardo’s Essex 
  • Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition 
  • Young Minds 
  • Family Solutions Group 
  • AMBIT Team, Anna Freud Centre 

What is this module about?

With a vision for integrated, whole-family approaches to family help central to the family hub policy, it is critical that family hub implementation includes effective and accessible support for young people specifically. 

Family Hubs are intended to offer services to young people as a key target audience, distinct from early years and parental support. The basic level of implementation describes staff feeling “confident to engage with families, children and young people across the age range” with specific communications tailored to older children and young people. 

This module seeks to share learning about why and how to implement this work within new and existing family hubs across England, so that service designers and commissioners can reflect on the situation in their local area and make informed decisions about how to adapt and deliver support for older children and young people in their communities. 

Youth services 

‘Youth services’ here encompasses all support services offered to young people in the adolescent age range – that is ages 10-19.  

This includes universal youth services and targeted support – from open-access youth clubs, detached youth work, sport, arts, and drop-in early intervention mental health hubs, through to employment support, child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), substance use services, youth offending services (YOS) and other statutory services. 

The National Youth Agency covers the essentials of how local authorities can implement the statutory duty to provide youth services in this guidance document. The key summary on page two highlights that there should be universal, open-access youth services accessible in community settings with clear pathways to targeted or specialist provision for young people aged 8-19 and those up to 24 who have special educational needs and disabilities.  

Youth services may be provided by local authorities directly, via commissioned partner organisations, and through voluntary community and faith sector (VCFS) agencies working in partnership with, or independently of, statutory agencies. 

Youth work 

Youth work methods have a lot to offer those involved in the design of family hubs. The fundamental elements are listening, co-planning, and co-delivery in the context of a voluntary relationship between young person and adult.  

Family hub service designers will gain significant value by involving youth workers in the design process and learning from youth work approaches when planning coproduction methods, delivery models, and workforce transformation. 

  • Definition of youth work

    In the Education Act 1996, youth work is defined as: 

    (a) “sufficient educational leisure-time activities” which are for the improvement of the well-being of qualifying young persons in the authority’s area must include sufficient educational leisure-time activities which are for the improvement of their personal and social development, and 

    (b) “sufficient facilities for such activities” must include sufficient facilities for educational leisure-time activities which are for the improvement of the personal and social development of qualifying young persons in the authority’s area. 

  • The National Youth Agency (NYA) has added more context to this and define youth work as:

    A distinct educational process adapted across a variety of settings to support a young person’s personal, social and educational development: 

    • to explore their values, beliefs, ideas and issues 
    • to enable them to develop their voice, influence and place in society 
    • to acquire a set of practical or technical skills and competencies, to realise their full potential. 

    Youth work is by definition a voluntary relationship between a trusted adult and a young person in safe space. Although mandated relationships such as with teachers, probation workers, social workers, etc. do employ youth work insights, once it’s a mandatory relationship – it’s not youth work. 

Youth work also has a range of models that help to improve access for young people as well as for families who often find it hard to access services. These approaches can be of value to those designing family hub models. 

 

  • Youth work delivery models:
    • Centre or place based – youth workers would stay in a building or area and young people approach them to engage with the service. 
    • Outreach – youth workers go out into the community to deliver youth work in places where young people are based, for example schools, parks and community centres. Sometimes it is hoped that outreach will encourage young people to visit a centre-based setting. 
    • Detached – this is street-based youth work where youth workers will go to wherever the young people are in the area, whether that’s a park, skate park or on the street. 
    • Digital – online youth work increased during the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, when many young people couldn’t access services. Digital youth work will be continued to be used as a tool within and to complement work in other situations and settings.
    • Mobile – youth workers who move between different locations to meet young people. This is delivered in rural areas where young people are geographically spread out. 
    • Residential and outdoor education – trips and activities outside of a young person’s usual environment. 
  • Places where youth work can be delivered:
    • Youth centres – the most ‘traditional’ setting for youth work is in a youth centre, although with the lack of investment over recent years, youth centres are often not available for young people to be able to access. 
    • Schools – many educational establishments have youth workers based in pastoral care and alternative provision, to help those who need additional emotional, personal and educational support. 
    • Health – young people’s wellbeing is fundamental to their development which is why youth workers are important in health services such as mental health, sexual health, substance use and hospital settings. 
    • Justice – youth workers who support young people through the justice system and deliver support in youth offending institutions. 
    • Social care – youth workers are important for building trusting social connections with young people in care who might not have many relationships outside of care. They can be supportive in semi-independent settings and as an intermediary between young people and families. 
    • Digital sphere – a lot of youth work is now provided online through virtual group sessions, online mentoring, peer support groups, chat on apps or through web platforms, and via youth-focused information and support sites. 
    • Faith places of worship are used as community buildings for a variety of youth work, but there are also organisations who have a religious backbone to their youth work delivery.
    • Sports – on the sports field or in the sports centre, exercise is important for wellbeing and confidence. Youth workers deliver coaching while supporting emotional and personal skills. 
    • Creative arts – theatres, music halls, art galleries and more, where youth workers deliver creative sessions to build young people’s skills. 
    • Nature – forest schools, parks, nature reserves and more – outdoor learning increases wellbeing indicators whilst exploring nature and new places. 

It is important to emphasise that youth work can be delivered anywhere, in any setting, as it depends on where young people choose to be (though in some settings young people do not choose to be there e.g., justice settings). 

This thinking and approach of ‘going to where people choose to be’ is also of value when planning delivery models for services for the whole family. This can shift thinking from ‘how do we get people to come to where we are?’ towards creating a model which enables those delivering services to go out to places which are more accessible to young people and families. 

Family hubs provide a real opportunity to work with youth providers to improve provision and access to support for young people. Connecting more with youth services and youth work methods provides a huge opportunity for the wider family help service to learn and adapt to make services more accessible and effective for all. 

Why is it important to integrate youth provision into your family hub model?

The integration of youth services into the family hub model provides three key opportunities: 

  1. More points of connection and engagement with parents, carers and whole families. 
  2. More opportunities for early intervention. 
  3. More options for delivery models which improve access to services. 

 However, it is also important to note at the start that there may be value in different degrees of separation between youth and family services at certain times: 

  • Young people may find it hard to access spaces which were formerly children’s centres or where their parents or carers access services. 
  • Young people (and parents and carers) often have anxieties about data and information sharing between services, so openness, clarity and informed consent around this will be key. 
  • The family hubs workforce often come from an early years background, so transitioning to a 0-19 or 0-25 age range may be difficult for practitioners. 
  • Risk-taking behaviour is a normal and healthy part of adolescent development, but could prove challenging in a whole-family setting. 

Opportunities:

Engagement 

Around two million young people engage with a youth service at least once a week, which equates to 35% of young people within the secondary and further education age range (ages 11-19 years). Youth services can be universal but most youth provision is place-based and focused on delivering support within a specific community or neighbourhood. If all these interactions were happening within part of the family hub system, that adds a huge number of opportunities for relationship building with young people themselves, and with their parents, carers and wider family.  

Early intervention 

Within an effective system, these extra engagements and relationships provide many more opportunities for needs and issues to be identified early and action to be taken before things escalate and support from a wider range of services is required. 

Older young people, especially those in the 19-25 age bracket, will also require adult services but may not find these services accessible during those years of transition to adulthood. Enabling easy access to the whole suite of family help services (such as antenatal or parenting classes for young parents) through a youth service ensures that those who most need services are not missed. 

Spaces 

With many areas going through a comprehensive transformation process in their family hub model development, there is significant opportunity to re-think the spaces which make up each family hub (or the whole-family hub system). 

Young people have told us and those we’ve worked with that they need spaces they feel are safe for them. That will vary from one young person to another, but it pushes us to consider the full range of delivery models listed in the previous section. With effective co-production integrated into the transformation process, listening to young people in the locality as they tell you which spaces and types of spaces they find safe and would like to be able to access services from, will be key to developing a contextually-relevant model. 

Giving professionals the confidence, freedom and structures to deliver safely in diverse spaces – coffee shops, places of worship, schools, youth clubs, or even in detached settings such as street corners or beside a football pitch – will require new training, risk analysis, and partnership agreements with VCFS groups.  

Providing these options removes the expectation that young people must attend a family hub in a location that is inconvenient or uncomfortable to them, and so significantly increases access to support for young people. 

Mental health 

Adolescence is a time of significant change for young people and most emotional health needs emerge in this period. Family hubs are an opportunity to spot and act upon emerging emotional health needs preventatively and when they are low-level. Due to the potential engagement and reach that youth services have, they have an important role in signposting to support services that may not be easily accessible to young people.  

  • A report from Barnardo’s – It takes a village: the case for family support in every community – points out that some CAMHS referrals take place when there is no other community based option available. It also describes the steady increase in the percentage of teenagers in care (nearly one in four [24%] children in care are now over the age of 16, this compares to just one in five [20%] in 2008). The report cites family hubs as being an example of how to provide better access to family support services.  
  • A report by the Family Solutions Group – What about me? Reframing support for families following parental separation –  discusses prevention in the context of parental separation and aims to address issues before these cases end up in court (where there are no concerns about domestic abuse or child protection). The report cites family hubs as a touchpoint for families going through separation, as well as schools, GPs and health visitors.  

Data 

Family hubs could provide a focal point for gathering and utilising data that might otherwise sit in silos of schools or policing, and other services. They could provide an opportunity for young people to feed into decisions about what data are gathered, and the kinds of data that represent their day-to-day experiences. For example, data around how young people contribute to their local areas through volunteering.  

More information on data will come in a specific toolkit module on Data Sharing in Family Hubs to be published later in 2022. 

Barriers and concerns: 

Recognising the desire for separateness is a key part of acknowledging adolescent identity. This is reflected in the potential for the idea of ‘integrated services’ to feel uncomfortable for young people – “if I talk to you are you going to tell my teacher, or my mum?” “Can my dad check up on me if you log that I was here on your computer system?” “I don’t want to go to that centre – my nan takes my baby sister there – I’m not a baby!” Ways to mitigate these concerns are discussed in the How section of this module. 

Providers of youth services who are not currently closely connected to the family help system may be reluctant to work more closely with statutory services out of a fear that young people will no longer trust them, or because of broken relationships and mistrust between VCFS staff and local authorities. 

There is much to be said for a variety of degrees of integration to be available to providers of youth services as part of the model, giving them freedom to feel that they can retain the level of separateness they need to function effectively with the young people they work with. Those degrees might be: 

  • someone from the family hub building having a good working relationship with a key staff member in the youth service provider, so they are aware of one another’s activities and can seek help from the other if required 
  • clear and agreed referral pathways so that a provider can refer in to the hub if young people or their families require services they do not offer 
  • a worker from the external provider might work from the hub once a week to provide access to their services for those attending the hub 
  • specialists from the CAMHS or substance use teams might become part of the regular team running a youth club night at a youth club or another setting 
  • a provider may decide to run all their youth services out of a family hub and co-locate their workers in that space. As part of this they might try to create a distinct area/entrance/identity within the hub for adolescents 

Coronavirus pandemic impacts 

Lockdown restrictions during the pandemic, such as limited contact with friends and the wider family and a move to home-schooling for many young people, increased the pressures on families. The APPG on Youth Affairs reported that during the pandemic, we witnessed some 1 million young people fall off the radar and the number of vulnerable 8-19yearolds in England rose from an estimated one million up to three million. 

There has been a sharp rise in mental health referrals and a specifically sharp rise in self-harm, eating disorders and crisis during the pandemic. In addition, there has been a rise in domestic abuse and child protection referrals. Commissioners should keep this in mind in the design of family hubs. 

According to the initial summary of findings from the national youth sector census, the most commonly delivered targeted provision is towards supporting the mental health and wellbeing of young people. Two-thirds (66%) of all VCS organisations and four in five (81%) local authorities offer a programme of support towards young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Therefore, youth services play an important role in equipping young people with the tools needed to thrive and are integral in family support provision, which will be particularly crucial in the context of the pandemic. 

Inequalities 

Children and young people living in poverty, and young people with protected characteristics, have been disproportionately affected by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, existing inequalities across the country in wealth and youth service provision were highlighted and exacerbated during the pandemic. 

Before the pandemic struck, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) reported that during 2017-18, the number of children living in absolute low income had increased by 200,000 and those in relative low income by 300,000 – the latter to 4.1 million or 30% of the age group. 

The same year, the Social Mobility Commission found that “Inequality is now entrenched in Britain from birth to work” – that is, including within the teenage period – and that “Being born privileged still means you usually remain privileged.” 

Support for young people to overcome these inequalities has also been shown to be hampered by inequalities in provision. In November 2021 the initial summary of findings from the national youth sector census showed that youth services are more widely available in more affluent areas, with twice as many dedicated buildings and twice as much provision compared to the most deprived postcodes. 

Furthermore, racism and racial inequality has been shown to have a direct impact on the ability of people from minoritised ethnic groups to access early intervention support. Research by Rethink found that in community settings, individuals from Black and minoritised ethnic groups were 40% more likely than White individuals to be turned away when asking for help.

Family hub service design must ensure that the context of current inequalities around poverty, race, and the distribution of service provision for young people is central to decisions around design and implementation. More guidance on how to do this will be published in summer 2022 in this toolkit in a specific module on Access and inclusion in family hubs. 

Funding 

The £560m Youth Investment Fund announced in the 2021 budget has been followed up by a commitment to a National Youth Guarantee, which will: 

ensure that long term Government spending on youth programmes is focused on supporting young people’s mental wellbeing and developing skills for life and work. In response to feedback from youth organisations, it will work to ensure the Government’s youth funding is coordinated, levels up accessibility across every region, so that no young person is left behind as the nation recovers from the pandemic. 

A significant proportion of this funding will be directed at delivering “up to 300 new and refurbished youth facilities in the most deprived parts of England”. 

In the areas being targeted by the Youth Investment Fund it will be especially important for service designers and commissioners to consider how to ensure that this new funding – particularly the potential new or refurbished youth facilities – is delivered in a way which complements and fits within the family hub model. 

Reflective questions:  

  • Which parts of our area have the highest indices of deprivation, and what can we do to ensure that our youth services are accessible to young people living in those areas? Which other spaces or digital environments exist in those areas which might be utilised for accessible youth support? 
  • How can the design of our family hub model enable more access to early intervention for black young people, people from minoritised groups and other young people with protected characteristics? How well does our youth-focused workforce reflect the diversity of the population of young people our family hubs serve? 
  • How might we ensure that the funding from the Youth Investment Fund in our area works in synergy with the youth elements of our family hub model? 
  • How will our family hub model ensure that young people who disconnected from services during the pandemic find it easy to reconnect into the youth and family help system? 
  • How will we ensure that preventative emotional and mental health support for young people is integrated across our youth support services and family hubs?  
  • How can our family hubs support young people who might be waiting a long time for their CAMHS referral to be enacted? 
  • How might we learn from youth work methods and approaches in our whole-family hub model design? 
  • Where will it be most important to ensure a degree of separateness of youth services from the wider family help system in our local context? 
  • How can we ensure that young people feel able to safely access support without worrying that everyone in the area will immediately know all about their issues? 

Who needs to be involved in designing a family hub system which supports young people?

First and foremost, family hub design needs to engage with local children and young people to understand what works well for young people locally; how they feel most comfortable and confident to access activities, help and support; what the gaps are; and maximise the local potential for innovative co-design with young people. 

The National Youth Association (NYA) say that youth services can deliver more positive and meaningful outcomes in participant-led youth services than when young people have not been involved in the process. The NYA’s Hear by Right framework supports organisations to plan, develop and evaluate participation practices and provision. In addition, organisations like Peer Power Youth have resources and expertise in the co-production of statutory and VCFS services with young people, particularly those who find it hardest to access services. 

Secondly, involving specialist VCFS organisations is particularly important because they are often skilled at building relationships of trust and may have special knowledge or grassroots reach which is essential for meeting diverse needs. The following examples show how family hubs can collaborate with VCFS or targeted organisations to meet specific needs, which might have otherwise been overlooked:  

  1. Young people looking for work is an important transition point, particularly when there might be additional needs. AFK is a charity that helps disabled children and young people to live independent and fulfilling lives. Its transition programme aims to help young people with learning disabilities transition to life after school, including transitioning into paid employment.  
  2. Proactively creating spaces and opportunity for young people to express themselves is a way of encouraging autonomy. In an article about race, racism and youth work, one young person from the Bollo Brook Youth Centre in west London discusses how people of colour can feel in White dominated spaces and how policy alone is not enough to respond to racism. Family hubs and youth work occupy a key space below statutory intervention where culture and the arts can be led by young people. 
  3. Parental conflict and separation have been shown to significantly impact outcomes for children and young people, and in addressing this it is vital to help parents understand the impact their conflict can have on their children. The Family Solutions Group have also highlighted their view of the urgent need for trusted, effective support to be directly accessible to young people in these situations, rather than mediated through a parent/carer. 

Reflective questions:  

  • Do we have an effective co-production strategy that enables young people to have their voices clearly heard in the design and implementation of our family hubs? How representative are the young people engaged in our local co-design conversation? (e.g. a range of protected characteristics, levels of need and different experiences of engagement with help and support.) 
  • What are the barriers for VCFS involvement in our family hubs design and implementation process? Do we have a strategy to improve relationships with VCFS providers who have good networks of grassroots youth and family relationships, particularly with those who find it hardest to access our services? 
  • Have we ensured that young people with a broad range of protected characteristics are actively involved in our family hubs design and implementation process? 
  • Where are young people currently choosing to be? Do we have relationships with leaders in those settings and spaces? 

How do we design our family hubs model to offer accessible and effective support to young people? What are the key ingredients for best practice?

Taking a whole-system approach 

This means using lived experience and system-wide data evaluation to underpin stakeholder engagement and multiple partnerships. You can find out more about how to do this in our Family hub development process module. Each stage of the process builds on the foundation of what children, young people and families say they need, through co-production processes; system-wide analysis; an evidence-based model and a robust approach to implementation and evaluation. 

 

Coproduction 

Effective coproduction with young people (as well as children and families) will be key to any successful family hub model. Involving youth workers in this process will be key, alongside learning from the expertise of youth-focused coproduction experts such as Peer Power Youth, Common Room, and local organisations utilising the NYA Here by Right framework for participation. 

The National Centre for Family Hubs toolkit module on coproduction gives more details on approaches relevant to family hubs planning and implementation. 

 

Shared governance structures 

In the design of the family hub model, ensuring that governance structures involve key leaders from the youth sector can open up significant opportunities for integration. 

Ideally this happens both at an individual family hub level with local youth providers being part of the set-up, as well as at the local authority level with key figures from statutory and VCF sector youth providers and networks having both ownership and responsibility for ensuring integration across the area. 

Practice Example: 

In Westminster City Council’s family hubs, there is now a youth hub as an integral part of each family hub. This is enabled by the CEO of Young Westminster Foundation sitting as co-chair of the Early Help Partnership Board, bringing youth-focused perspectives and influence across the family help system in Westminster. At an operational level, the manager of the local youth hub is a core member of the family hub integrated leadership team (ILT). Having a local ILT is a key part of Westminster’s family hub approach and supports the integration of services across each family hub locality. This ensures that service provision is better streamlined and targeted to local need.  

Young Westminster Foundation ask youth providers in their network how they will meet the principles and behaviours of the Westminster family hub model. Many youth providers are now saying that being part of the family hub as brought them closer to parents and carers. 

Get out of the hub! 

Enable professionals to work in less formal settings which are more accessible to young people. This will require training, risk assessment and effective supervision, but can have a huge impact on making services feel more accessible to young people and families. 

A good first step for a wary VCFS partner is to ask if you can meet young people or families located in their area in their building or space. This can significantly improve engagement from young people and families in services, and regular interaction with the partner agency staff creates more opportunities to build relationships and deepen integration. 

Practice example: Essex

Essex work on a hub and spoke model with twelve Family Hubs (one in each district) and 26 Delivery Sites. In addition, other outreach community venues are used e.g. youth clubs, cafes, faith venues, Schools, outside spaces, and also family homes. This enables workers to meet with young people and families in familiar, easily accessible locations where they feel safe and comfortable.

The Family Hub community-based teams support families with children pre-birth to 19 (25 with SEND) and for school aged children consist of School Nurses, Family Support practitioners and Child & Young People Practitioners. Additionally, Healthy School Engagement Workers work with Schools to assess, develop and implement new initiatives for the Healthy School programme and Community Engagement Workers link current community services into the hubs and work within the asset-based community development framework.

Our Family Hubs are converted Children’s Centres and vary in size. Young people may perceive them to be more Early Years related and they may not lend themselves to deliver Youth universal provision. We need to consider if they are the right place for youth intervention or how they can be adapted. However, our teams are flexible and young people can gain support as, when and where they are comfortable to receive it, and this is not always in a Family Hub building.  ECFWS is referred to as a “service without walls”, the buildings are far less important than the support given.  More importantly, our Young People are able to build safe, trusted relationships with our practitioners, so their needs are truly understood and met.

Our Virtual offer is also important to our Young People and can be their preferred option to access the support they need when they need it.

Practice example: 

In Lambeth it can be hard for young people to travel between different parts of the borough due to safety issues. Young people have been attacked when leaving the YOS offices because they were seen in the wrong area. The YOS connected with small grassroots community-based organisations like CHIPS on the Angell Town estate and requested to use their office to meet with local young people.

Though staff were initially wary of the association with the council, the young people trusted the team and knew the space well so were able to access the appointments easily and connect more effectively with their YOS workers. Through the developing relationship, CAMHS workers and school nurses also began meeting young people in the space, enabling improved access to support for the young people and better channels for communication and referral from the partner agency to these elements of the family help system. 

The hub as a cluster of spaces 

Hubs do not have to be defined as single buildings. A family hub might be set up as a cluster of local services – a children’s centre, a youth club, a VCFS partner, a GP and a school, for example – with a framework for co-location, a shared relational practice model, and effective access to all services from any of these ‘front doors’. 

Enabling workers to move easily between these places improves young people’s and families’ access to those services from the place they feel most comfortable going. For example, the GP could sometimes be based at the children’s centre and sometimes at the youth club, and the CAMHS worker might be on-site in the youth club during specific sessions and is at the GP at other times. 

Adapt commissioning to enable better access and key-worker support 

With very good reason, commissioning arrangements often require workers to see clients directly with fixed appointment schedules and tightly defined processes to achieve outcomes. However, adapting some of those arrangements to allow for less formalised interactions and the opportunities for professionals to deliver support to young people by supporting their key worker to offer this help can have significant benefits for young people. 

As discussed above, having professionals in spaces young people are already accessing, such as youth clubs, can help young people reach those services. Enabling professionals to get involved in open-access drop-in sessions can add another layer of benefit as it reduces the reliance on fixed appointments and referrals being made, which can be barriers to issues being picked up early. 

In addition, the Team around the worker model has been shown to improve young people’s engagement in services by reducing the number of direct relationships with professionals (which young people can struggle to manage when experiencing multiple, overlapping needs), and working off their existing trusted relationships. This approach can require adaptation to commissioning arrangements such as those implemented in Cambridgeshire to enable Structured Consultancy from specialists to those who first identified the risk or referred the young person.  

Practice example: 

Cambridgeshire Child and Adolescent Substance Use Service (CASUS) has developed the concept of “Structured Consultancy” in young people’s substance use work, and has been in discussion with the NTA to get this recognised as an additional form of intervention modality. 
 
This is in accordance with the AMBIT notion of Team around a worker.
 
The document from the Royal College of Psychiatrists on Practice standards for young people with substance misuse problems acknowledges (2.1.6) that consultation to referrers is an expected standard in young people’s substance use services. 
 
CASUS has refined and structured the process of consultancy so that by supporting other professional staff in active ways they are able to begin working “through” existing trusted relationships, rather than insisting on the young person forming a new relationship before work can begin. This is an integral part of how CASUS seeks to work, in seeking (to quote a principle from the Core Features of AMBIT stance) to be “Scaffolding existing relationships”. This is especially helpful for young people who find it difficult to trust in professionals due to experiences of abuse, exploitation or marginalisation or who have had negative previous experiences of services.

Reference: Cambridgeshire Child and Adolescent Substance Use Service – AMBIT Manual – Structured Consultation 

Improving transitions 

With services supporting a broad age range spanning up to 25 years of a young person’s life, it is usual to divide up services into age-restricted groupings. 

However, there can be significant advantages to removing these age restrictions to services, allowing services to cater to children and young people dependent on their personal situation, their developmental context, and the rapidly changing societal and cultural landscape which means needs are presenting in non-traditional age groups. 

This also helps to remove some of the challenges around transitions which are points at which young people are often at their most vulnerable. 

Since key transitions in education take place at age 11 and at ages 16 and 18, ensuring that youth services have the flexibility to move young people to the next level when they are personally ready can help to smooth these transitions. In addition, young people become ready for adult services and support at very different times, so flexibility on age boundaries at the 18 and 25 year points can help to reduce the risk of young people dropping out of the system or losing critical support during these transitions. Local areas should approach these age boundaries with an open mind and seek to trial approaches to flexible boundaries relevant to their context and evaluate impact. 

It is particularly important to think of the specific needs of neuro-diverse children, those with special educational needs and disabilities, and young people requiring statutory safeguarding and mental health support. Management of transitions into and out of specialist services provided to young people can be improved by effective relationships and integration in family hubs. 

Case example: Essex

Age restriction

The ECFWS is a 0-19 (25 SEND) service which integrates both the health and social aspect across the lifespan of a child into adulthood, our multidisciplinary Healthy Family Teams provide support at various stages including without needing to navigate complex referral systems within our service.  The service has brought together 0-19 Healthy Child Programmes, Children’s Centres, Family Nurse Partnership, School Nursing and National Child Measurement Programme which is now provided in one seamless service

Young People tell us that they find it difficult to navigate support, especially for universal services and turning 18 does not instantly make them an adult. Consistent support within one integrated service where there are familiar faces is extremely beneficial in transitioning to adulthood, this has been a key benefit of integrating the various service within this contract.  The ECFWS have a one system recording approach, so our YP do not need to repeat their story multiple times, which can be frustrating and a key barrier for individuals when they are trying to access services.

Some Family Hubs facilitate co-location with other youth service provision however co-location is not enough on its own and collaboration to ensure those working with Young People ensure a wrap-around package of care and true integration is key. Strategic leadership now spans school age provision across the Essex Child & Family Wellbeing Service, the CAMHS contract incl. Children & Young People Practitioners and the Affinity Programme working with children & YP at risk of exclusion and Family Hubs will be shared space.

Relevant communications 

The digital offer needs to be up-to-date and relevant to young people. It should clearly demonstrate the distinction between early years support and support for young people, so they feel as though family hubs are for them. In addition, social media should be used creatively and responsibly, and all communications should reflect the area’s diversity and the local population. 

We are looking to gather more guidance and practice examples on Brand and Communications in Family Hubs to be published later this year. 

Ensuring openness and informed consent are front and centre of information sharing 

  1. It’s important to share information and a data sharing model such as SystmOne is an example of a system that GP and other services use. However, if a young person perceives that a service will break their confidentiality, this might act as a barrier for engagement. In addition, concerns about data sharing requirements may be a major barrier for involving VCFS partners in the family hubs system. Transparency, consent and flexibility are key. 
  2. Young people need to understand the choices available to them, what information would be shared and for what purpose, their options and the exceptional circumstances when sharing information without consent arise (i.e. immediate risk of harm, urgent medical treatment and criminal offence) 
  3. Give youth providers a range of ways to be part of the family hub system, with differing degrees of integration and data sharing requirements. Focus on building relationships of trust with VCFS partners as this is the essential ingredient in effective integration. 
  4. Share information about themes and not about individuals unless this is necessary.

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