Government to proceed with evaluation of five Family Hub models

Research methods identifying best practice in integrated services to families must take account of the maturity of the services offered, a new government report says.

17/11/21

Government to proceed with evaluation of five Family Hub models

The report, from the Family Hubs Evaluation Innovation Fund, presents a mixed-method evaluation of Family Hub models in five local authorities, assessing their implementation and processes, outcomes, impacts and economic benefits.

The five local authorities are Bristol City Council; Essex County Council; Leeds City Council; Sefton Council and Suffolk County Council. All deliver services for 0-19 years. The report concludes that mixed-method evaluations are viable in all five, supported by a programme of Action Learning, in which professionals at all levels develop creative solutions to complex problems.

In the next stage of the evaluation, the report says that Quasi-Experimental Designs (QEDs) are feasible and appropriate for two of the five LAs (Essex and Leeds). The remaining three will adopt theory-based methods, and will use the evaluation period to lay the foundations for a prospective future QED.

Essex had the most established Family Hub model: it began integrating pre-birth to 19 health and social care wellbeing services in 2015 and its Family Hubs have been operational since 2017. Services are commissioned from Virgin Care in partnership with Barnardo’s. Essex has 12 Family Hubs, alongside 28 Family Hub delivery sites to make access easier for families.

“Only Essex includes a focus on improving health outcomes and confidence among families to manage conditions,” the report says, adding that “Essex have introduced a shared competency framework to the multi-agency Healthy Family Teams. This aims to encourage flexibility within the team to focus on responding to and supporting the families’ needs rather being restricted by job roles.”

Leeds also has a mature model: three Family Hubs give access to 25 clusters of early help. Multiagency teams working in the hubs include representative from the police.

Suffolk’s Family Hubs are still developing, bringing in 17 full-time hubs and 11 smaller, part-time sites. The aim is to offer a one-stop shop for all families of children aged 0-19. The focus is on more efficient services through multi-disciplinary teams, improving access for all families and reducing stigmatisation of family support services. The report says so far, Suffolk has good data and tracing systems for under-5s.

Bristol is still in development. Its priority is to improve the timing for services, and to make them local and multi-disciplinary. Currently, Bristol is developing Early Help, and universal services to families of children aged 0-11. The report comments that the focus should be on system impacts, as families are less likely to notice the improvements in service delivery at this stage.

In Sefton, Family Wellbeing Centres are the main vehicle for early help. Its model aims to offer many routes in for families rather than ‘one single front door’. The report says that the LA is currently recovering from a poor Ofsted report, and as a result, faces challenges in setting up Family Hubs. “Sefton have specified outcomes across education attendance and engagement among families, and increasing employability skills.”

The report identifies different priorities across the LAs: “Suffolk, Essex and Sefton include outcomes related to education. Suffolk and Essex have a focus on early childhood development and have ambitions to improve school readiness of children. Linked to their partnership with the National Literacy Trust, Suffolk hope to improve literacy levels among children.”

“Essex and Bristol hope to reduce social isolation of families through the Hub activities. Essex aims to develop a self-supporting network of parents, increasing peer-support opportunities.

“Leeds and Sefton’s outcomes for children and families are closely aligned to the Supporting Families outcome measures. Their interventions focus on supporting improved family functioning. As such, they intend to reduce the negative effects of historic or current stressors (e.g., family conflict, domestic abuse, substance use) and improve mental health and wellbeing of family members.”

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