Sure Start centres in Northumberland to be replaced with a 'family hub' model

Northumberland is set to move away from Sure Start children’s centres towards a new “family hub” model aimed at providing support for a wider range of families.
Berwick Children's Centre.Berwick Children's Centre.
Berwick Children's Centre.

Northumberland County Council’s Family and Children’s Services overview and scrutiny committee meeting were told on Thursday that the new hubs would aim to provide services to families with children of all ages.

Northumberland currently has 12 children’s centres alongside various outreach posts in more rural areas – down from an initial 26 at the height of the Sure Start programme, which began in 1998.

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The family hubs will aim to strengthen families and prevent family breakdown, as well as supporting separating families in the best interest of the children. The re-branding of the services is intended to be completed by September this year.

Jackie McCormack, the council’s senior manager for children’s social care, explained that it was felt the focus on early years in children’s centres didn’t address problems experienced by the majority of families.

Presenting a report to members, she said: “The focus on early years in Sure Start doesn’t reflect the reality of family life. Problems arise in secondary school.

“Early help with such issues is critical to preventing such issues spiralling out of control and derailing life choices. The service needs to be available for all families regardless of the age of their children.”

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The new family hubs will have both a physical presence and a virtual one, while outreach services will continue to operate in rural areas. Mrs McCormack said staff would take a “creative” approach to reaching families in these areas.

Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “It’s going to be quite a transformation. I really welcome it.”

He added that more services, such as midwifery and other NHS support, would be under the same roof, avoiding the duplication of services.

The council has also been successful in securing funding from central Government for the hub model.