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New Integrated Family Support for Essex

22 June 2016

Essex County Council has agreed to launch the procurement of a new integrated Pre-Birth to 19 Health, Wellbeing and Family Support service.

A wider range of services, joining up the Healthy Child Programme, Healthy Schools, Family Nurse Partnership and Children’s Centres are to be available from 2017.

Under the agreed changes, Children’s Centres will be renamed Family Hubs, reflecting their new role to coordinate a wider range of services for families. Importantly too, Family Hubs will coordinate services for families with children from pre-birth to age 19 (age 25 for children and young people with additional needs).

There will be 12 Family Hubs, one per district, open 50 hours per week offering weekend and evening provision. Family Hubs will be supported by 25 Family Hub delivery sites and a large number of local, outreach sites.

The Council’s Cabinet heard that the current approach started two years ago with reducing the number of fixed children’s centres and increasing outreach sites, has succeeded in reaching more families. Cabinet approved changes to Sure Start Children’s Centres so that the successful outreach continues.

Councilor Dick Madden, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Children, said:  “We need to build services without walls.  This approach takes the Pre-Birth to 19 Health, Wellbeing and Family Support service to the village hall, or even the front room, and makes sure that families, who need support most, receive it wherever they live.”

The new way of working will give greater flexibility to staff, allowing them to respond to the needs of families with children and to allow them to work with families where they want to receive support, such as in their homes or in local clinics or play areas.

Being more flexible and more innovative in the way in which services and support are delivered will allow staff to reach priority groups including those who don’t currently use Children’s Centres.

The overall aim of the proposals is to ensure that families still have easy, local access to services, which are often in places that families already use.

The County Council held a public consultation on the proposed changes earlier in the year and as a result made 21 amendments compared to the original proposals.  The new model will be in place from April 2017.