For members of the Scrutiny Boards to consider plans to develop and deliver a Family Hub offer in Solihull by March 2024.
The Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health and the Interim Head of Children’s Public Health introduced and outlined the report, detailing the aims and objectives of the pilot Family Hubs programme, to provide a single-branded multi-agency family support offer from pre-conception to 25 years.
Members raised a number of observations and queries which, in summary, included the following:
· A Member endorsed the emphasis on engaging with children and young people with additional needs. They queried what support could be provided for parents with additional needs. The Member highlighted, in particular, the support for parents who were neuro diverse, but may not have received a formal diagnosis.
· The Interim Head of Children’s Public Health responded, outlining the following:
- They detailed the quality assurance being undertaken to ensure the Family Hubs were accessible for autistic people and people with additional needs.
- A wide range of experiences were going to be provided for families – including autism friendly environments and quiet hours.
- All of the Hub buildings would have a minimum specification, which included a sensory room for both children and parents – these rooms were going to be multi-use, whereby they could be calming, as well as stimulating.
- Peer support groups were also going to be provided, to be available to everyone on basis of need, rather than diagnosis.
- A specific offer was going to be provided for young people with additional needs, ages 19-25 years – with a focus upon transition to adulthood, preparing for independence and life skills. This would be delivered in partnership with local schools that supported pupils with additional needs.
· A Member welcomed the locations identified in the report, including the outreach offer in Meriden. They queried how residents in Balsall Common and surrounding areas were going to be made aware of and be able to access this.
· The Interim Head of Children’s Public Health explained it was recognised there were pockets of need across the Borough – for Balsall Common and Berkswell, officers were actively looking at potential locations for outreach activity, acknowledging, in particular, the issue of social isolation. Family Hub branding throughout would be used, to help raise awareness. Schools would be a vital partner in sharing information on the Hubs, alongside other agencies, including the Health Visiting Service.
· A Member welcomed how it was proposed for a Full Hub offer to be provided via their Ward. They queried how this information was being communicated, explaining that the users of an existing community hub were concerned they may be impacted.
· The Interim Head of Children’s Public Health detailed how they were looking to ensure a clear dialogue with all stakeholders on the use of potential sites for the different Hub locations. It was emphasised that a number of the partners delivering existing support would form part of the future Hub offer.
· A Member queried how it was going to be ensured that the Family Hub offer complemented, rather than replaced, existing services.
· The Interim Head of Children’s Public Health outlined the key goals of the Family Hub offer – universal Start for Life services, such as antenatal and health visiting services, would be provided at all full Hubs. Alongside this, a range of complementary services would also be offered – these would be evidence based initiatives to improve child development and educational attainment. The VCSE sector had also welcomed how they would not be charged for using these spaces, as part of the wider service offer.
· Members highlighted how Solihull had been awarded transformation funding from the Department for Education, with a deadline of delivery of March 2024. They queried the work being undertaken to identify potential funding to support transformation and delivery after this point.
· The Director of Public Health detailed the focus on ensuring value for money, making best use of existing assets and effective partnership working. As part of the Medium Term Financial Strategy, a contingency fund within the Public Health Directorate had been established. She also outlined the ongoing dialogue with the Department for Education, whereby the outcomes from the pilot would be clearly evidenced and monitored.
· A Member queried who could access the Family Hub support – whether it was specifically for Solihull residents, or could also be used by families from neighbouring areas. They also queried the digital support and questioned how this would be used to promote the Solihull Approach and the first 1001 days.
· The Interim Head of Children’s Public Health explained the focus on the digital offer – this included providing sessions via Teams meetings, for families who may find this more accessible than face-to-face meetings. There would also be strong emphasis upon the wide range of Solihull Approach online parenting courses available – these were already popular with 1800 families registered as active users.
· The Interim Head of Children’s Public Health detailed how the aim of the Hubs was to ensure a wide range offer for the families of Solihull. Strong cross-border working was already in place, so families from neighbouring areas would be able to use a range of services, if they wished. If families wanted to access a referred specialist service, cross-border arrangements would be in place, to ensure they accessed it at the correct location.
· A Member expressed some disappointment there were no Family Hub sites located in South Solihull, emphasising the amount of housing development, as well as the pressure on schools, in their area. They queried whether central locations in the Solihull could also be considered, noting how it offered strong transport links. The Member emphasised the pockets of need and deprivation across the Borough.
· The Interim Head of Children’s Public Health explained how they were actively looking for outreach locations across the Borough, including in the South and specifically Dickens Heath. This included the library, whilst schools in Dickens Heath were also keen to work in partnership to support the outreach offer.
· A Member highlighted the multi-agency information sharing outlined in the report, including the development of a joint system. They queried how this was going to be achieved.
· The Interim Head of Children’s Public Health detailed the work being undertaken to ensure robust multi-agency information sharing arrangements to support the delivery and aims of the Family Hub offer, which included the development of a shared module in Liquid Logic. This would be in addition to the existing multi-agency safeguarding information sharing arrangements, including via the Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub.
· A Member questioned the arrangements in place to ensure a consistent, quality service was delivered via different locations across the Borough. They also queried the arrangements to ensure effective partnership working and contribution. The Member also raised the evaluation of effectiveness of the pilot – they queried how this will specifically demonstrate the impact of the Full Hub and Outreach offers.
· The Director of Public Health explained that, as part of the pilot, detailed monitoring and evaluation would be undertaken with the Department for Education, which would take into account how the Full Hubs and Outreach initiatives provided different offers.
· The Interim Head of Children’s Public Health explained the robust governance arrangements in place, to ensure consistency and effective partnership working. This included hub offer being overseen by the new multi-agency Children and Families Prevention and Early Intervention Board. A Parent Carer Panel was also being established, with representatives from a range of parenting scenarios.
· In response to queries from Members, the Interim Head of Children’s Public Health outlined how they were linking with the Inclusion Service to ensure an effective offer for both electively home education children, as well as children unable to attend school.
· A Member expressed their concern that, in some instances, families may be reluctant to seek help, if their details were going to be shared with other agencies. They queried how this had been taken into account.
· The Interim Head of Children’s Public Health explained how there would be clear arrangements in place for consent and information sharing. It was confirmed that all partners would continue with their confidentiality and privacy impact assessments to support the delivery of services via the Family Hubs pilot.
· A Member queried how hard-to-reach groups would be encouraged to access the Family Hubs and Outreach offers.
· The Interim Head of Children’s Public Health detailed how they were looking at learning from other areas with similar schemes in place. The use of concurrent timetabling had been successful elsewhere, to encourage families to access support they may not have otherwise considered – for instance scheduling a stay and play session at the same time as a mental health support offer.
The Chairman thanked the officers for the report and responding in depth to all the different points raised by Members. Members welcomed the update and it was recognised it was a major success that Solihull was one of 12 local authority areas, out of 84 applicants, to have been awarded funding for the Family Hub offer by the Department for Education.
The Joint Scrutiny Board:
(i) Requested for a further report on the development and delivery of the Family Hubs pilot to be presented to the Children’s Services, Education and Skills Scrutiny Board in November 2023. Members of the Health and Adult Social Care and the Stronger Communities and Neighbourhood Services to be invited to attend this meeting.
(ii) Agreed for a site visit to the first Family Hub to be undertaken in November 2023. Site visit to followed by an informal discussion session.
(iii) Agreed that Members receive an update on the locations for the Family Hub sites, once confirmed, prior to wider communication. This will be a confidential update, prior to formal announcement.
(iv) Agreed for a briefing note to be circulated to Members, outlining Scrutiny’s statutory powers and best practice for engaging partner agencies.