Agenda item



Officers introduced the item on the draft Family Hub strategy.


Family hubs were part of the Government’s new commitment nationwide with a view to providing support and advice on a range of health and family needs. This support was available to young people aged 0-19 (and up to 25 for young people with SEND). The National Centre for Family Hubs was led by the Anna Freud Centre and supported by the Department for Education. The Early Years Healthy Development Review Report – The Best Start for Life – led by Dame Andrea Leadsom MP, championed Family Hubs as a place where families can access support in the early years of their child’s life, through the delivery of a specific Start for Life offer, including access to maternity and health services, alongside support for parenting and reducing parental conflict.


In August 2022, the Government published the Family Hubs and Start for Life

programme guide for the 75 Local Authorities funded in 2022-25, to establish their Family Hubs and Start for Life Offer. Hillingdon was not eligible to bid for funding due to the advances already made locally, in establishing Uxbridge Family Hub in December 2021 and with work underway to deliver a second Family Hub in Hayes, due in July/ August 2023.


It is the intention to provide a range of services in an integrated manner with good collaboration across services. The delivery points would include some existing centres such as libraries, thereby using Council assets. However, it was acknowledged that some areas of the Borough would be harder to reach, and so there would be a Mobile Library and Transport Community Bus. The geographical coverage across the Borough would ensure that there were a range of services available within a 30-minute walk or 1.5-mile drive for all residents, where there was an identified need.


The draft strategy was currently out for consultation and residents were encouraged to complete the survey and have their say on the proposals. The consultation was running for 12 weeks from 10 May until 30 July 2023. Consultation events had also taken place within Children’s Centres and libraries.


It was noted that some services may be moved from one location to another – this was not a reduction in service, but with a view to implementing a flexible, targeted offer and meeting community needs.


Officers noted that they were also consulting on the three early years nurseries, which were running at a deficit, and there were options within the Cabinet paper pertaining to maintaining childcare sufficiency.


Members thanked officers for the report, and noted the safeguarding remit, and asked if this remit would widen. Officers noted that the family hubs received referrals from the Stronger Families Hub, for example for one-to-one support, access to groups and activities, and that it was possible to widen the remit of the family hubs.


Members commended the progress that has been made over the past year and noted that there was a need to understand the new services and what was being provided to residents. The possibility of an app was highlighted, as young people and families were becoming more technology-friendly. Officers noted that there were a number of existing apps, such as a North London Trust pregnancy app, which Hillingdon’s children’s centres were embedded into. The Start for Life offer was noted to cover pre-birth to the age of 2 years. An in-house app was possible. The local SEND offer online also provided information.


Members asked about supporting, for example, people with issues around pregnancy and alcoholism. Officers noted that they were working closely with midwifery services, and also with social care teams.


Members noted that they were happy with the direction of travel but asked about the proposed delivery spaces, with reference to the 1.5 mile/ 30 minutes distance. Members noted that there were no proposed venues in Heathrow Villages ward, suggesting that residents in this ward may have to travel more than 1.5 miles or 30 minutes. A map of the proposed venues may be useful. Members also asked about priority groups and suggested that it may be useful to have this data compared by area of the Borough. Officers noted the valid point on Heathrow Villages, further noting that they were acutely aware of the need to manage the public health offer. It was recognised that the feedback from the consultation would address some needs. Officers also referred to in-reach into communities and priority groups. Using local buildings enabled the Council to make use of its assets. There would also be the mobile offer into areas such as Heathrow Villages.


Officers highlighted that there could be some confusion with a variety of services now known as Hubs (including the Stronger Families Hub, family hubs, health hubs).


Members noted that some of the key data sets were based on old ward boundaries. Officers noted that this information formed part of the childcare sufficiency assessment which used a template provided by the Mayor of London’s office. Some of the data sets hat the template draws on had yet to be updated when the assessment was last completed in December 2022, and this was why it listed old ward boundaries. Members also noted that the 1.5 miles/ 30 minutes distance may be difficult for residents with disabilities.


Members noted that there needed to be practical solutions beyond the mobile offer, and asked about consulting with faith leaders, and how they could be reached. Officers noted that the consultation was ongoing.


Members asked how Members themselves could distribute the consultation, for example to businesses. Member’s local knowledge and ward events could be used, as could their social media presence. The point on businesses required more thought.


Members noted that proposed increases in house-building could lead to demand for services increasing. Members also noted considerations around childcare costs and the increase in numbers of children/ young people with SEND. Officers noted that the consultation asked residents about childcare. The detail of the extension to the childcare offer for working families outlined in the Spring Budget was not known until after the report was submitted to cabinet, but the implications would be considered post consultation as part of the report back to Cabinet in September. On sufficiency, officers were looking at housing as one area of consideration. The consultation was not exhaustive, though it would help to gather evidence prior to the draft strategy coming back to Cabinet.


Members asked, as the consultation was still ongoing, whether it could be offered in alternative languages. Officers noted that this could be looked into and that multi-lingual staff within the service had attended consultation events.


Members asked whether any additional finances had been received for this strategy, and what effect closed centres would have. Officers noted that while some services were being re-located, this was not a service reduction. Staff worked for services, not for specific locations. There were some lease arrangements with schools, but some financial resourcing was required.


Members further asked about funding for asylum-seeking families and whether the Council was trying to secure additional funding through the Home Office. Officers noted that there were small pockets of funding available for specific groups. The hotels used to house asylum-seekers were primarily in the south of the Borough as these were nearest to Heathrow Airport. Engagement with the Home Office and public health colleagues was ongoing, but no additional funding had yet been received.


Members noted that the proposed delivery spaces had to be attended to make them worthwhile and welcomed the consultation and the proposed strategy.


RESOLVED: That the Committee


1.    Noted the report; and


2.    Delegated comments to Cabinet as part of the consultation on the proposals to the Democratic Services Officer in conjunction with the Chairman (and in consultation with the Opposition Lead)


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