Agenda item

Stronger Families Hub review: Early Findings


The Chairman outlined the progress of the review to date including the five witness sessions held so far. The first witness session outlined the work of the Stronger Families Hub. The second and third heard testimonies from young people and their parents who had used the service. The fourth heard from staff at the Hub and the fifth heard from health partners. It was noted that a sixth witness session with education representatives was still to be arranged. The current meeting was aimed at considering findings, conclusions and early draft recommendations.


Members asked how the Stronger Families Hub was supporting women from ethnic minority backgrounds, specifically non-English speakers. It was clarified that this could be looked into outside of the meeting.


Members also asked about the suggestion, from witness session four (the voice of providers), of a larger out of hours MASH Team, and whether this was a want or a need. Members further clarified that this appeared to be a necessity, as this would, for example, aid in covering staff absence through illness. This was also a necessity due to the service becoming 24 hours. A team of 12-15 staff members would be beneficial. Members further suggested that there was an apparent fragility to the out of hours team, and that they were vulnerable to a staff shortage.


Members noted that the review will, in itself, promote the service of the Stronger Families Hub, and this would likely lead to an increase in its usage. As the team was understaffed currently an increase in demand would add further to staffing pressures. It was noted here that some internal covering of staff was already necessary, and that the Hub could function better with more capacity. Members noted here that the review’s recommendations to Cabinet had to be mindful of finance. However, the professionals had been clear in informing the Committee of what they needed.


Members noted that there was currently not enough awareness of the Stronger Families Hub, especially within schools and out-of-Borough schools. Also, further information was needed on how the process worked. One of the primary functions of the Hub was early identification, which could lead to an avoidance of the increase in the severity of issues experienced by families.


Members highlighted work with harder-to-reach community groups. Using community leaders to promote the Hub was suggested. Members also highlighted the importance of mental health provision and its links to schools. Members noted that there was good signposting for, for example, Looked After Children, but that the signposting for one-off cases, such as young parents, was less effective.


Members noted that the CAMHS referral pathway was the topic of a major review by the Health and Social Care Select Committee and suggested liaising with that Select Committee in relation to CAMHS.


Members noted the enthusiasm from the staff and health partners to make the Stronger Families Hub service work, and that this should be noted in the final report. Members questioned if there should be a clarification around the expectations from the service, as it appeared to focus mainly on children and not parents. Members clarified, noting witness sessions two and three, that there was a holistic approach and while there was a focus on early identification the service did support the whole family and not just children. It was noted that the Hub could also refer to other departments as necessary.


The Chairman highlighted the many strengths of the service, which had been demonstrated through the witness sessions, and that the health partners had noted that the 24-hour nature of the service was impressive.


Members noted that the final report should re-iterate the purpose of the Stronger Families Hub, as well as focusing on the potential for it widening its remit. Regarding promotion, this needed to be increased, potentially through charities and voluntary sector organisations.


Members noted that third party voluntary, charity and community groups were often low-cost and high-reward organisations. It was highlighted here that these groups could enhance support outside of statutory services.


RESOLVED: That the Committee considered possible conclusions, findings and early draft recommendations in relation to the review.


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