Families with children in Northumberland, County Durham and Sunderland will be among those in 14 council areas in England to benefit from “trailblazer” status under a £302m government scheme to establish family hubs.
The hubs will serve as one-stop shops offering a range of services to families with children and those up to the age of 19 (or up to 25 for those with special educational needs and disabilities), ranging from help with infant feeding and perinatal mental health support to easier access to wider services such as smoking cessation and job advice.
Six more North East councils are among others that will also benefit, though not with “trailblazer status”, which brings additional funding to enable them to fast-rack delivery: Gateshead, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Redcar & Cleveland and South Tyneside.
According to the government:
“Investing in families and making sure they get the support they need from birth through to adulthood helps with children’s educational attainment, well-being and life chances, while also improving wider outcomes such as poor mental health and unemployment.
“Previously these services could be disjointed and hard to navigate but family hubs will act as a ‘one stop shop’ to offer guidance and advice on a range of circumstances including, infant feeding, mental health support, health visits and parenting classes.
“Hubs will also bring together wider wraparound services that can make a huge difference to people who need extra support – such as advice on getting into work, relationship building and stop smoking services.”
Altogether 75 councils in England are receiving family hub funding up to 2025, and separately another 12 – none in the North East – will receive grants to transition services which used to operate under the Sure Start banner over to the family hub model.
Sure Start centres give help and advice on child and family health, parenting, money, training and employment, and some also provide early learning and full day care for pre-school children.
There were 3,620 Sure Start children’s centres in England in 2011 but the number declined to 3,050 in 2019.
Councillor Louise Farthing, Sunderland cabinet member for children, learning and skills, said:
“We’re delighted to have been given the opportunity to bring the family hubs to families in Sunderland…We want every family in Sunderland to have the support that they need, when they need it. Our network of family hubs will help us to build on the support we already provide to communities by strengthening our early help offer, resulting in better support for local children and families.
“This is about joining up local family services, bringing them together to improve access and support for the whole family. From conception through to a child’s early years and beyond, there will be a strong focus on mother and baby mental health and well-being, baby feeding, and helping parents with their skills and knowledge of parenthood.
“We’re also really excited about being chosen as a trailblazer as this will give us the opportunity to make further ambitious changes and improvements to our services which benefit our communities.”
The Sunderland family hubs will be in Hendon, Hetton, Hylton Castle, Thorney Close and Washington.
Councillor Ted Henderson, County Durham’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said:
“We are thrilled to have been selected as a trailblazer for the family hubs…allowing us to demonstrate how we can integrate our services to give the best support we possibly can for parents and hhildren across the county.
“The family Hubs will help us to work more closely with children and families to ensure support is delivered in line with what is most valuable to them.
Durham County Council said:
“As part of the trailblazer scheme, last month Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan visited our Woodhouse Close Family Centre at Bishop Auckland, which will be one of the first centres to be developed into a family hub.
“She met with families at the centre and spoke to early help and social workers about their experiences and how they make a difference for the county’s children and young people.”
Councillor Gary Haley, Gateshead cabinet member for children and young people, said:
“We’re incredibly proud to be bringing the family hubs offer to our communities across Gateshead.
“Our funding will make it possible to bring together an array of support services, from breastfeeding support to employment advice, and hugely improve access to these vital services for the members of our community who need them most.
“By making critical services more accessible to not only parents and young children, but every member of the family, we can support our residents to live thriving lives.”