‘Deep down, there is much more to it’ Luke aged 13

Earlier this week I attended the official launch of our Family Wellbeing Centres (FWC), otherwise known as Family Hubs. We moved from 17 Children’s Centres to 8 FWCs last December but delayed an in-person launch event until we could invite a number of guests. The event was held at one of the centres on an estate often referenced by Raheem Sterling as being in sight of Wembley Stadium, but in many respects a long distance away. There were inputs from the Lead Member, a parent of children under 5 years old who had benefited from services, a Citizens Advice rep who gave a case study of assisting the parent to address debt and budgeting, before finally hearing from our voluntary sector partner that provides activities and support for vulnerable adolescents. A ribbon representing all 8 FWCs was cut by the mayor to much local cheering.

My previous visit to the centre had been in August when the local scouts were running one of our Holiday Activity and Food Programmes (HAF) with great enthusiasm. Along with all other areas we are currently reviewing the Household Support Fund to provide food vouchers to eligible families for the half-term and Christmas holidays as well as planning the HAF programme for the Christmas and Easter breaks.

The need for such resources was emphasised to me at the FWC when a 16-year-old came into the centre towards the end of the launch event, having been on the adjacent basketball court. Young people now come into the centre when they see there is an event as it is likely there will be left-over food. These young people feel comfortable coming into the centre because, as part of the refurbishments from Children’s Centres to Family Wellbeing Centres, young people aged 11-16 worked with an artist in each of the centres to create a mural. The optimistic message in this FWC on the mural is ‘You are what you make of yourself’ with one young person commenting that “it helps to make people like this estate because it welcomes them in and makes them fit in because it shows that everyone is seen. It makes them think that even while everyone might be different, we’re all the same.”

As Charlotte Ramsden wrote in her blog last week ‘the emergence of Family Hubs which offer support and advice to families with children aged 0-25 at the heart of local communities gives us some insight into how investing in prevention can improve lives and significantly reduce demand for crisis services and intensive intervention in family life’.

For this critical Early Help provision we rely on the Supporting Families grant and the Public Health grant, supplemented with other resources whenever possible such as the Household Support Fund.

The level of need where ‘deep down there is much more to it’ means that confirmation of ongoing funding is key to meeting the increasing needs of children, young people and their families that we are all seeing.

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