Sheffield Hallam helps local authorities to broaden reach of Family Hubs

19th December 2022

New research from Sheffield Hallam University, commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE), has helped to identify barriers some families are experiencing in accessing Family Hub services.

Family Hubs are a single point of contact to support families with children up to the age of 19, or up to 25 for those with special educational needs or disabilities. They bring together services to improve access and deliver an integrated local offer across health, early years, education, and family support. 


The research, which looked at existing family hub models in Sheffield, Durham, Wakefield and Wolverhampton, is part of a programme of research funded by the DfE to improve uptake of Family Hub services by under-served communities.   


Psychologists from Sheffield Hallam used behavioural science to inform the effective implementation of Family Hubs and improve access to support for families.      


They found that one of the main barriers to accessing services was lack of knowledge, some families did not know that Family Hubs existed, what services they could access and that they are free.  


Others lacked the confidence to ask about these services or were worried about the stigma and shame associated with accessing support.  


In some areas, the accessibility of the Hubs was a concern for families because of the cost of travel or work and time commitments.  


Dr Abigail Millings, from Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Positive family experiences are crucial for the development and well-being of children and young people, and the services offered by family hubs are there to help. But in our research, we’ve found that there are barriers to using these services.  


“We’ve helped local authorities to use the tools offered by behavioural science to broaden the reach of family hubs services to make sure that more people benefit, especially those in under-represented communities.” 


Findings from this research will feed into the development of a wider government programme which aims to develop family hubs in more than half of local authorities across England, with ‘Start for Life’ services at their core.   


The Family Hubs and Start for Life programme is being delivered jointly by DfE and the Department for Health and Social Care in 75 local authorities, and aims to increase accessibility, awareness and uptake of family hub services as well as improving the experience for families of navigating services.  


The DfE is also separately investing £12 million to transform services into family hubs in an additional 12 local authorities. 

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