A new report published today by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Children's Centres sets out recommendations for the future of the facilities.
'Family Hubs: The Future of Children's Centres' is intended to complement the Government's Life Chances Strategy, first announced in January by David Cameron and since endorsed by the new Prime Minister, Theresa May.
The report highlights the key role that Children's Centres have played in improving outcomes for young children and their parents, particularly amongst disadvantaged families.
The proposed transition towards Family Hubs would see them expand to become a one-stop shop for all family-related matters, providing support and information on everything from birth registration to debt advice.
The recommendations outlined in 'Family Hubs', having been informed by evidence gathered from a range of Children’s Centres, local authorities and charities over the last 12 months, are as follows:
- Augmenting Children’s Centres into Family Hubs as part of the Government’s Life Chances agenda. This would mean renaming and rebranding them as Family Hubs, broadening the range of services available to make them universally recognised one-stop-shops for sourcing support for families – at all stages and ages – in their local communities, linked with national online support.
- Placing Family Hubs at the heart of local Health and Wellbeing strategies, requiring strong leadership at local and national government levels.
- An emphasis on mental health support, including looking at how support available from other partners such as schools can be integrated into Family Hubs support.
- Delivering employment support, particularly for the long term jobless. This will involve strengthening links between Family Hubs, local employers and Jobcentre Plus
- Relationship support should be delivered in Family Hubs, or signposted from them, to include statutory, voluntary and self-help provision, and be extended beyond parenting support to include couples counselling; pre-marriage courses; post separation support and help with parenting teenagers.
Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Children’s Centres says: “The Government has rightly made improving the life chances of vulnerable children and families a priority. Children’s Centres across the country have real potential to play a lead role in this by extending their remit and transforming themselves into ‘Family Hubs.’
“Evidence shows excellent examples from across the country where individual centres have broadened their support into a variety of services for the whole family, such as dedicated support for fathers or help to access employment. It’s hard to conceive of a life chances strategy that doesn’t position Family Hubs front and centre.”
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Vice Chair of the APPG on Children’s Centres says: “For over the last 15 years, Children’s Centres have been a vital means of support to families who need support in the early stages of family life. These centres have done so much good in that time and it is sad to see so many closing down across the country. Now more than ever, it is important that those families who are struggling do not miss out on the much needed support offered by these centres and that is why we must protect and build on those achievements.
“By expanding the support on offer and opening the doors to more families, Children’s Centres can be a central hub in our communities for all families to use and do what they do best which is identifying problems and intervening early to ensure those problems do not escalate further and irreversibly damage children’s futures.”