Anna Freud appointed as centre of excellence for family hubs

Nicole Weinstein
Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Plans to increase the number of family hubs in operation and to open a national centre championing their work, were announced by education secretary Gavin Williamson this afternoon (19 May).

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that the Anna Freud Centre for children and families will run the new national centre for family hubs
Education secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that the Anna Freud Centre for children and families will run the new national centre for family hubs

Speaking at an event organised by the Centre for Social Justice, Mr Williamson said that he was ‘pleased’ to announce that the Anna Freud Centre for children and families will run the new national 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’.

In March, Andrea Leadsom launched the long-awaited Early Years Healthy Development Review, which sets out a vision for improving babies’ healthy development and reducing inequalities in the first 1,001 days of life.

Ms Leadsom’s recommendations, which were put before Government on 26 March, include a new ‘Start for Life’ package for prospective parents setting out a universal offer of health visiting, midwifery, breastfeeding and mental health support. Parents will be able to access these services from family hubs, similar to Labour’s Sure Start centres, which will also offer childcare, early education and healthcare, as well as advice on jobs and training.

Speaking about what the Department for Education and other departments are doing to help support parents and give them the best start in life, Mr Williamson said that he was also ‘pushing ahead’ with plans to support the growth of family hubs in England, with the £14m already invested.

He added, ‘I’ve instructed officials in the department to draw up plans to increase the number of family hubs currently in operation.

‘Family hubs are a place for parents to go with their children to access help that might otherwise be hard for them to find; they can meet health visitors and get access to classes on parenting and receive wider support.’

Mr Williamson said that he was ‘looking forward’ to continuing to work with Ms Leadsom to deliver the six action areas outlined in the best start for life, which he said he thinks will have a ‘transformational impact’ for babies and their families.

Speaking about the upcoming Spending Review, he said that 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 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 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.’

Family: The Gap between Westminster and the Rest, was 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. Gavin Williamson was an honorary guest.

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