Social Mobility Commission: Family Hub roll out 'must learn lessons' from Sure Start

Joe Lepper
Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The government is being urged to learn lessons from the Sure Start children’s centre initiative amid an expansion of Family Hubs across the country.

More support for families is needed, the Social Mobility Commission has said. Picture: Adobe Stock
More support for families is needed, the Social Mobility Commission has said. Picture: Adobe Stock

Over the last two years there has been a growing focus on rolling out the hubs, which offer targeted early intervention for children from birth to 19.

There are currently 150 family hubs nationwide and their development has come amid the closure of around a 1,000 Sure Start children’s centres over the last decade.

The Social Mobility Commission wants to see the number of hubs expanded and to ensure government learns from the successes of Sure Start. 

The recommendations have been made in the Commission’s State of the Nation 2021 report into social mobility and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first wave of Sure Start centres targeted the most deprived 20 per cent of areas. The commission says government needs to ensure hubs are also located in disadvantaged communities.

Sure Start centres also had a focus on multi-agency support for families, which the Commission wants to see hubs emulate.

Other successes from Sure Start, recommended to be taken into consideration for the roll out of Family Hubs, include “taking more coordinated and strategic approaches to bring in families less likely to use early childhood services”.

Amid a focus on multi-agency support, hubs need to establish “clear protocols for data sharing”, says the commission.

It adds: “Many of these approaches could mean a strong and thriving offer for disadvantaged families if they are supported and expanded across the country.”

The commission states that the closure of Sure Start centres has “undermined outcomes for young children and their families” and disproportionately impacted “the outcomes of children from more disadvantaged backgrounds”.

An expansion of Family Hubs is part of a focus by the commission on boosting early years support to improve social mobility.

It also calls for an expansion of eligibility for 30 hours free childcare for three-four-year-olds to all families, rather than only working families. There should also be universal childcare places for all two-year-olds, the commission adds.

“Now is the moment to level up opportunities for children across the country,” said commission co-chair Sandara Wallace.

“Ending child poverty and investing significantly in education are two of the most impactful and influential things the UK government can do to improve social mobility.”

National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) chief executive Purnima Tanuku welcomes the commission’s focus on “the importance of high-quality early years education for children, especially those who are from disadvantaged backgrounds”.

She said: “This is key to reducing the widening attainment gap and is a sound investment to enable all children to reach their full potential.”

But any expansion of funded childcare “must be thoroughly costed so childcare providers can continue to deliver high quality places”, added Tanuku.

Meanwhile, a report by the NDNA and the Education Policy Institute published this week has revealed that up to four in every ten early years settings had to close their doors in Spring this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The majority of closures were caused by staff or children isolating.



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