The early years of a child’s life are so important as this is the time when the foundations for their development are set. We also know that it is vital that they have the support they need throughout childhood and onwards through their teenage and transition years into young adulthood.
That’s why I’m thrilled that Bristol is one of 75 local authorities that has been selected by the Government for a portion of over £300 million of funding, to support the Family Hubs and Start for Life programme in the local area. This is on top of a Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) grant of £97,000 over two years, which supports services to help parents develop effective relationships and reduce conflict in the home.
The £4.8 million of funding for our Family Hub Start for Life programme will help to support the vision for children and young people set out in Bristol’s Belonging Strategy. The strategy’s aim is that everyone in Bristol will have the best start in life and to get the support, help and skills they need as they grow up to prosper in adulthood.
The funding for Bristol over the next three years will help to develop Family Hubs to make it easier for families to access information, support, and services when they need it. This is especially important in areas with the highest levels of deprivation and disproportionately poor health and educational outcomes, as we know from our efforts to protect Bristol’s children’s centres and avoid the mass closures seen elsewhere since 2010.
Through the Family Hubs and Start for Life programme, parents and carers will receive more dedicated support to better help them nurture and care for their babies and children, ensuring they have the very best start to life. Family Hubs are a great way to join up the planning and delivery of services in a local community or area and will bring together a range of services to improve the connections between providers, professionals and families. The aim is that they are a front door to universal support and early help.
While the Start for Life programme will focus many funded services on babies and young children and help us in furthering our ambitions to be a Child Friendly City, it will link into the wider Family Hubs programme offering services for families with older children and young people up to the age of 25.
The programme is still in the early stages of development but it’s important to know that these Hubs aren’t about creating new buildings; it’s about connecting the dots, so families have a “one-stop shop” to universal and early help ranging from infant feeding support to mental health support, parenting and family support and help in accessing specialist help, at their fingertips.
This could look like a mixture of physical and virtual spaces, as well as outreach where families can easily access professional support for the challenges they’re facing. We will also strive to build on the existing services on offer, such as midwifery, family support workers and voluntary and community sectors. We also wish to build on delivering services from some of our children’s centres with the aim of developing this approach more widely across the city as well as considering how we can develop young people-friendly hubs.
We’re really pleased to be developing the Family Hubs model, working together with a wide network of partners and organisations already doing incredible work for our children, young people and families in the city. Together we are stronger, and we can make sure that people can access the right support whenever they need it.