Joining the Dots. Are parenting programmes the key to integrated local family support?

The need for family support has increased significantly over the last seven years, leaving local authorities grappling with an increased demand for their services. Whilst recent funding commitments have gone some way to ameliorating this, funding overall in this time, has somewhat stagnated. The Safeguarding Pressures report published last year confirms the magnitude of the challenge we are now facing.

Part of this challenge is the increased referrals to children’s social care, child protection and early help assessments. This, combined with stretched public finances, has left non-statutory services supporting children and families through the most challenging time, with limited resources or time for creativity in service design.

Recognising this, the Government’s Spending Review has made positive investment in this space. The new £500million funding for the Supporting Families (£200m), Family Hubs (£82m) and Best Start for Life (£218m) programmes will offer a much-needed boost to the resources available for local authorities, enabling them to provide essential care and support for families within their communities. This is of course part of the Government’s aspirations to ‘level up’ and dovetails well with the Independent Children’s Social Care review, and the expansion of Integrated Care Boards. The challenge before us is how to use the additional resources and impetus, and ensure a cohesive and joined-up system of support that really works for parents.

Joining the Dots sets out a rationale for how such significant funding can be brought together and maximised, to ensure services are reaching as many families as possible and getting support to those who need it the most. The full integration of services summarised in the paper offers an ambitious but achievable approach to family support, and lays the ground for future thinking and service design of ‘high quality Family Help’ as proposed in ‘The independent review of children’s social care’. In practical terms building this model through engagement and development of existing services offers an elegant basis for change.

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