Turn children's centres into 'family hubs', says think-tank

By Joe Lepper

| 15 July 2014

Children's centres should be scrapped and replaced with ‘family hubs' that also offer advice on relationships support, according to the think-tank The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).

The CSJ report says family hubs would get fathers more involved in the care of children.

The move is part of a package of measures in its report, Fully Committed? How Government Could Reverse Family Breakdown.

The CSJ is particularly concerned about the high rate of relationship breakdowns among low income families. By the age of five, 48 per cent of children are not living with both parents, it claims.

It wants family hubs to focus on long-term family stability by offering ante and postnatal services as well as advice on debt, careers support and relationship advice.

Birth registrations should also be moved out of civic registry offices into family hubs. A CSJ Freedom of Information request to councils in October 2013 found registration at a children’s centre was only possible in seven per cent of council areas.

Hubs should also be organised under a hub-and-spoke model to ensure they are widely accessible and be known as the “go to” place for all family-related matters, says the report.

CSJ director Christian Guy said: “For too long family breakdown in this country has gone unchallenged despite the devastating impact it has on adults, children and communities.

“The next government can’t hide from this and needs to raise the stakes, get behind families and promote stability. This report outlines the ways to do it.”

The charity 4Children, which manages children’s centres, has backed the creation of family hubs.

Anne Longfield, 4Children chief executive, said: “We are pleased that the CSJ is backing 4Children’s proposals to expand children’s centres into community hubs to provide inter-generational community support.”

She added that already a number of its centres are offering family wide services.

The CSJ is particularly keen that family hubs ensure fathers are more involved with children’s lives and it is also calling for dads to have a right to be named on birth certificates.

It also advocates that father involvement is an outcome to be added into any payment-by-results models for running family hubs.

Registry office fees for marriage should also be scrapped for couples who attend marriage preparation courses, the CSJ report adds.

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