'One-stop-shops' to support children and families opening in Burnley, Pendle and Ribble Valley
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Lancashire County Council says that its network of “family hubs” have been designed as one-stop-shops to provide support for young people and their parents or carers at every stage of maternity, childhood and adolescence.
The main aim of the facilities - of which there will initially be one in each Lancashire district - is that those seeking help can find it quickly and from the most appropriate source.
A by-product of that ambition is that families should not have to repeatedly explain their circumstances to different people, because so many services will be hosted under the one roof - irrespective of who actually delivers them.
Whether it is baby feeding advice, counselling for families or support for youngsters with special educational needs, the aim is to combine accessibility and simplicity - and make the hubs the first place families turn when in need.
“I think it's about improving…connections [and] building on the relationships that we have with families from the very early days - and hopefully that carries them through the life of their family as [their] children grow and needs change,” Katherine Ashworth, Lancashire County Council’s head of service for early help, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
“They'll become familiar with a place they know that they can go…and feel comfortable in accessing. [It will mean they can] get the right support they need…at the right time.”
County Hall hopes that the key to the success of the new set-up will be the breaking down of the barriers that have sometimes existed between the different departments and organisations involved in providing that support.
Amongst the key partners in the new hubs will be the NHS and health visitors who, in delivering their universal services from the facilities, can also provide a route through to other more tailored help for those that may benefit from it.
Katherine added: “This is an evolution for us in the sense that it’s building on the strengths of the services that we have in Lancashire…[and] knitting things together more intrinsically - so that services become more visible to the families that need them.
“If you come to a family hub for your antenatal care, about to be a first parent, you build a relationship with that place - and you can access the wider range of services that are offered there as your child develops.
“There's [also] a neutrality about being able to support…the most vulnerable within our family situations and do that within this very open, friendly, welcoming setting that isn't in any way stigmatising [about] accessing services for families.
“If you're a family that's struggling with school places for your younger children, but you've also got a teenager that's got vulnerabilities and you’re concerned, maybe, about behaviours, you can access that range of support in one place.
“So it's not compartmentalised in the way that perhaps some of our services have suffered from in the past.”
The hubs, which will operate from existing family wellbeing bases operated by the county council, will each have unique elements to them - because they will also be harnessing the power of the many voluntary groups that can be found in different corners of the county.
For County Cllr Michael Green, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, the ability to provide a locally-led system of “wraparound assistance” to families is vital to the development of the hubs.
“They’ll [each] bring their own stamp which will reflect the community [that] they serve. They're not designed to be the same - it would be wrong if they were,” he said.
County Hall also rejects the suggestion that the creation of the hubs is a reversal of a policy implemented in 2019 that led to the closure of almost 20 of its then more than 75 children and family wellbeing centres amidst what was presented at the time as a move to delivering services to families in their own homes rather than central locations.
Katherine Ashworth said that outreach work would continue to be an important component of the overall service, but that the authority wanted to offer “a blended approach” between the two.
County Cllr Green added that there was always a need to respond to a changing landscape.
“We cannot stand still, because if we stand still, we move backwards. I see family hubs as being a very positive step - it’s taking services out to communities and making those networks even stronger moving forward.
“But I think the challenge [lies in] how it actually goes - and that's why we are encouraging the public to come, try the facilities and give their feedback.”
WHERE IS MY HUB?
Special opening day events are taking place between 10am and 6pm at the new family hubs as they launch this week. This is where those in Fylde and Wyre can be found and when they open their doors:
Tuesday 26th September
Brierfield Family Hub
Tunstill Square, Brierfield, BB9 5GZ.
Thursday 28th September
Tay Street Family Hub
21, Tay Street, Burnley, BB11 4BU.
Clitheroe Children and Family Wellbeing Services
Wesleyan Row, Parson Lane, Clitheroe, BB7 2JY.