Agenda item

The Development of Family Hubs in Brent

The report provides information about Children’s Centres in Brent and an overview of Family Hub models and their potential to improve the wellbeing of children and young people. It includes details of what the introduction of a Family Hub model in Brent could provide, building on the current provision of services offered by the borough’s Children’s Centres.


Councillor Mili Patel (Lead Member for Children's Safeguarding, Early Help and Social Care) introduced the topic and reminded Members that the proposals outlined in the paper were subject to consultation and pending a decision by Cabinet. Therefore, she proposed that the financial aspects of the Family Hub model could be discussed at the special Budget Scrutiny meeting scheduled to take place in early December 2018.


Nigel Chapman (Operational Director - Integration and Improved Outcomes, Brent Council) presented the report which included details of what the introduction of a Family Hub model in Brent could provide, building on the current provision of services offered by the Borough’s children centres. He directed Members’ attention to paragraphs 3.8, 3.9 and 3.10 of the report (pages 57-58 of the Agenda pack) which summarised the changing nature of service demand and the necessity to think differently about the way services would be delivered to the most vulnerable families in Brent. Mr Chapman pointed out that information about other parts of the country where the Family Hub model had been in operation was also included in the paper.


The Chair spoke of a site visit to a Children and Family Hub run by Westminster City Council which had provided Members with a good insight into what the model looked like once developed and enquired about the ways it was expected to improve existing provision in Brent. Mr Chapman explained that children centres had been successful in engaging families with children aged 0-5 which had led to a number of positive outcomes such as a greater proportion of children being school ready; building resilience amongst families at risk; greater engagement of fathers, etc. However, there was currently a ‘cut off’ of services once children turned 5 which the Family Hub model would address by moving towards a whole family approach as issues like late diagnosis of mental health conditions and risk of youth violence, often arose with older children.


Service delivery under the Family Hub model would take into account the research carried out as part of the Council’s Outcome Based Reviews (OBRs) on domestic abuse, children on the edge of care and reducing the impact of gang activity. It would enable services to be co-located and delivered to families with children of all ages including vulnerable adolescents. Sue Gates (Head of Early Help, Brent Council) explained that at present children centres were used predominantly during school hours (9 am to 3 pm). Under the new model, there would be fewer centres, but timetabling of activities would be improved to enable a wider range of services to be offered. This would take into account the outcomes of the OBRs, the results of the children centres annual satisfaction survey and the outcome of the consultation on the Family Hub model. She explained that it might be possible that not all services would be delivered from all centres, with others such as employment support and housing advice, rotating between the sites. Furthermore, service provision would be flexible, including weekends, depending on demand – in fact, at present there were activities taking place on Saturdays and Citizen Advice Brent used some of the sites to deliver sessions in the evenings.


Members expressed concern that accessibility could be affected as the number of children centres could be reduced from 17 to eight which represented a reduction of more than 50%. They enquired whether geographic considerations had been taken into account when developing the proposal and whether an impact assessment covering travel time and costs had been carried out. Gail Tolley (Strategic Director of Children and Young People, Brent Council) said that an impact assessment would be carried out prior to deciding on the locations of the Family Hubs, subject to Cabinet approving proposal CYP008 as outlined in the consultation report presented in October 2018. Mr Chapman added that the Family Hub model was more targeted than existing provision and referred to Westminster City Council and Coventry City Council which had chosen to locate services in areas of greatest need. He said that Brent would be considering the lessons learned from other authorities when developing the model and every effort would be made to ensure that children and families were not excluded.  


Ms Gates emphasised the importance of making contact with all families with young children so they could be provided with the support they needed. She said that the Family Hubs would also provide a universal offer which would include health, development and mental health services, employment support and childcare, and supporting families with complex needs. Dr Melanie Smith (Director of Public Health, Brent Council) noted that, as well as the Healthy Child Programme, the current children’s centres programmes on childhood obesity, oral health and immunisation would be included Family. She added that the Council had been successful in negotiation with Public Health England and NHS England to have immunisations delivered at Children’s Centres as a back-up option for children who had missed vaccinations. Members acknowledged that although it was useful to offer all of these services, although currently they were targeted at the youngest members of a family members commented that problems such as obesity often affected the whole family so it was important to engage everyone.  


Referring to their visit to the Family Hub in Westminster, Members noted that a large building would be needed to accommodate all services that might be provided from a Family Hub and enquired whether the Council possessed a site with sufficient capacity. Ms Gates said that although some of the existing children centres were considerable in size, it was important to situate Family Hubs in the right location. Mr Chapman explained that Brent’s proposal included more Family Hubs than the model in Westminster which relied on three sites. He assured Members that resources would be used as efficiently as possible to maximise the number of services on offer. Gail Tolley commented that it was important to deliver high quality services that would have taken into account the outcomes of the consultation process. She reminded Members that consultation on the proposal had not started yet and expressed confidence that the Local Authority would be able to develop a strong Family Hub model despite the fact that sites might not be identical to the ones in Westminster.[1] However, the locations of the Family Hubs had not been determined yet. Gail Tolley clarified that the Council owned some of the buildings which housed the existing children centres, with the rest located on school sites. The Local Authority would be allowed to change their use providing that they were still designated to supporting children and families.


The Committee discussed the involvement of schools in matters relating to school nursing and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Gail Tolley said that Local Authority would be talking to schools about their engagement and support for the Family Hub Model. Members questioned the Council’s approach to the hard to reach adolescents and asked what measures would be taken to re-engage them. Ms Gates said that the Hubs would be instrumental in identifying those young people as their families were likely to visit them. However, officers recognised that some adolescents would not be interested in the offer so alternative methods and venues such as outreach work delivered from sport centres had been considered.


The Committee heard that a reduction in the number of older children coming into care would be a clear indicator for the success of the Family Hub model. This would mean that adolescents had been able to develop better relations with their families. Furthermore, it was expected that more young people would remain in mainstream education and would not become known to the Youth Offending Service. In addition, the age until which services would be offered would increase from 5 to 18 and the model would enable more early intervention work to take place. This raised a concern how services covering the need for such a wide range of ages could be provided from the hubs. Mr Chapman explained that the model would be centred on the needs of the whole family. In fact, often parents attending children centres were asking questions about their older children. He acknowledged that it would be challenging to bring various services together and although this had already been done in children centres, there was more work to be completed prior to integrating services completely.


In relation to engaging residents in the next steps of the process, Gail Tolley emphasised that the community would be involved through all stages of developing the Family Hub model and lessons learned from the current service delivery model would be taken into account. In addition, members of staff, service users and ward Councillors would be consulted and would be involved in the design of the new model. 



(i)    The contents of The Development of Family Hubs in Brent report, be noted;


(ii)  The following recommendations were made to the Council’s Cabinet:


·         Greater consideration be given in relation to the way an integrated workforce would be managed under the proposed family hub model;


·         Greater consideration be given in relation to how the Family Hub model would function taking into account the location of the buildings available; and


·         Front line staff, parents and ward Councillors be engaged in the consultation process on the Family Hub model.


[1] Gail Tolley clarified that she had not visited the Family Hub in Westminster to which Councillors referred.

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