Anna Freud to run new centre of excellence for family hubs

Kathy Oxtoby
Tuesday, May 25, 2021

New centre for family hubs to ‘spread best practice and evidence’ announced by Education Secretary, along with plans for more hubs in England

A national centre championing the work of family hubs, and plans to support their growth in England, have been announced by the Government (19 May).

Speaking at an event organised by the Centre for Social Justice, education secretary Gavin Williamson said that the Anna Freud Centre for children and families will run the new centre for family hubs, to ‘spread best practice and evidence’ on integrated family service models. The service is expected to be ‘up and running shortly’, he said.

This March, Andrea Leadsom MP launched the Early Years Healthy Development Review, which sets out a new vision across the health system to ensure all babies and children can get the best start, and to reduce inequalities in the first 1,001 days of life.


‘Start for Life’ package

Ms Leadsom’s recommendations, which were put before Government on 26 March, include a new ‘Start for Life’ package for prospective parents offering support with health visiting, midwifery, breastfeeding and mental health. These services will be available to parents from family hubs, which are similar to Labour’s Sure Start centres. The hubs will also offer childcare, early education and healthcare, and advice on jobs and training.

This will be led by an ‘empowered, modern skilled’ Start for Life workforce, which will meet the changing needs of families with babies, looking at new ways to support and empower staff to increase retention of health visitors, Ms Leadsom said.

According to the Anna Freud Centre, The new National Centre for Family Hubs will provide:

  • A virtual learning network and resource library to collate and share up-to-date evidence of best practice on setting up and delivering family hubs across England.
  • Training and events to offer a series of national and regional events to support local family hub delivery sites in the setting up and delivery of their services.
  • Expert consultation to offer specialist support, via the Anna Freud Centre’s new SupportLine service, to providers who are interested in setting up or delivering a local family hub.


Comments from the Anna Freud Centre

Dr Camilla Rosan, head of early years and prevention at the Anna Freud Centre, said: ‘We are honoured to be leading the establishment of the new National Centre for Family Hubs. There is nothing more important than the wellbeing of children and their families, and the best evidence and practice tells us that early help is what makes the real difference to their lives.

‘Children should not have to wait for this help. We will work closely with local authorities and other providers to ensure that all families can access high quality early intervention as soon as they face difficulties.’

She added: ‘Bringing together the current knowledge on what works for families, we will also be listening to what they say they want from family hubs, as well as sharing best practice with providers across the country. In making this a priority, we are ensuring that all children have the same chances as others - a positive start in life from the very youngest age.’


Pushing the growth of family hubs

In his speech at the Centre for Social Justice event, Mr Williamson also gave an update on what the Department for Education and other Government departments are doing to help parents, support families and give children the best start in life. He announced that he was also pushing ahead with plans to support the growth of family hubs England’, with the £14m already invested.

Mr William said: I have instructed officials in the department to draw up plans to increase the number of family hubs currently in operation.

‘A family hub is a place for parents to go, with their children and access help that might otherwise be too hard to find. They could meet health visitors, get access to classes on parenting and receive wider support.’

Mr Williamson said he looked forward to working with Ms Leadsom to deliver the six action areas outlined in ‘The Best Start for Life’, which he thinks will have ‘a transformational impact for babies and their families’.

Commenting on the upcoming Spending Review, Mr Williamson said that it is ‘absolutely vital’ that it looks at families.

He said: ‘I certainly want to see a large expansion of family hubs right across the country. I've seen first-hand the impact that they can have. It's a clear and tangible measure that we can undertake and we can deliver on. And that's certainly something that as I pull together my plans for spending as a department, I want to see at the centre of what I do, because we mustn't ever forget that early intervention and the right level of support can do so much to ensuring that we have to avoid intervening at a much greater level later on down a child’s life.

‘We're very much hoping to put families right at the centre of certainly everything that we do as a department and I very much hope wider, right across Government,’ he added.

Registering a new baby's’ birth at a family hub rather than a registry office is one of the areas under review with the Start for Life programme.

Mr Williamson said that he’s ‘desperate’ to see this happen because it’s an ‘incredibly important moment’.

‘It’s not just about registering your child,’ he said. ‘It’s about actually showing that there's a whole, much wider family around you, that are there to support you. We're working across Government to ensure that this can happen and it's certainly something that I want to do – and I think there's enthusiasm in the Home Office also to see it happen. We look forward to working with colleagues across Government to ensure that we deliver on it.’

  • Gavin Williamson was an honorary guest at Family: The Gap between Westminster and the Rest, a special event organised by the Centre for Social Justice. Panel members discussed how despite family looking different and more diverse compared to 50 years ago, the benefits of a strong family unit remain strong.





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