As Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children's Centres, or more commonly known as Sure Start Centres, Sharon has supported a report written by the APPG which sets out a vision for the future of these centres.
The report, Family Hubs: The Future of Children's Centres, argues that Children’s Centres have had a crucial role to play in providing support to young children and their parents, intervening early to address problems that prevent children reaching their potential, and tackling poverty and disadvantage.
It sets out a series of recommendations for how Children’s Centres would be even better placed to improve life chances if they operated as Family Hubs – reaching more families and offering support across a broader range of issues - especially with the publication of the expected Government Life Chances strategy in the coming months.
Having heard evidence from a range of Children’s Centres, local authorities and charities over the last 12 months, the report, Family Hubs: The Future of Children’s Centres recommends:
- Augmenting Children’s Centres into Family Hubs as part of the Government’s Life Chances agenda. This would mean renaming and rebranding them as Family Hubs, broadening the range of services available to make them universally recognised one-stop-shops for sourcing support for families – at all stages and ages – in their local communities, linked with national online support.
- Placing Family Hubs at the heart of local Health and Wellbeing strategies, requiring strong leadership at local and national government levels
- An emphasis on mental health support, including looking at how support available from other partners such as schools can be integrated into Family Hubs support
- Delivering employment support, particularly for the long term jobless. This will involve strengthening links between Family Hubs, local employers and Jobcentre Plus
- Relationship support should be delivered in Family Hubs, or signposted from them, to include statutory, voluntary and self-help provision, and be extended beyond parenting support to include couples counselling; pre-marriage courses; post separation support and help with parenting teenagers.
Following the publication of the report, Sharon said:
“For over the last 15 years, Children’s Centres have been a vital means of support to families who need support in the early stages of family life. These centres have done so much good in that time and it is sad to see so many closing down across the country. Now more than ever, it is important that those families who are struggling do not miss out on the much needed support offered by these centres and that is why we must protect and build on those achievements.
“By expanding the support on offer and opening the doors to more families, Children’s Centres can be a central hub in our communities for all families to use and do what they do best which is identifying problems and intervening early to ensure those problems do not escalate further and irreversibly damage children’s futures.”
You can read the full report here.