Dame Andrea Leadsom, the Government’s Early Years Advisor, has praised Northumberland’s Family Hubs for
their role in giving children the best start in life.
Family Hubs are a one-stop-shop for family support - from parents-to-be right through the teenage years to 19 or up to 25 for children with special education needs and disabilities.
Midwives, registrars, health visitors, early years and mental health professionals, youth specialists and a host of other services - including relationship and parenting programmes, and financial advice all work together to meet the needs of children, young people and families.
The MP, who oversees the Start for Life elements of the joint Family Hubs and Start for Life programme, visited hubs in Blyth and Berwick to see how they are making a difference to the lives of people in their communities.
She was also given a “virtual tour” of
the new Family Hubs website – that aims to help make
it even easier for families to find the right support and advice.
Dame Andrea said: “It was a pleasure to spend time with families and Family Hub teams at Blyth and Berwick and to see how the Start for Life work is already starting to make a real difference in Northumberland.
“It was wonderful to see how the hubs are at the heart of their communities and the excellent partnership working taking place.
“It is the innovation of our trailblazers like Northumberland, that will help to shape the development of the programme across the UK, and I will continue to follow their progress with great interest.”
Big Day for Elsie and Lola
Among the families who met Dame Andrea were Alyx and Robbie Maving, who were registering the birth of one of the county’s youngest residents, 10-day-old Elsie, at the Blyth Central Family Hub.
Alyx, 29, who works as corporate governance manager with the NHS and lives in Blyth with husband, Robbie, 30, a firefigher with Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service, said: “It was really good and much easier to be able to come along and register her here close to home.
We’ve been given a pack with lots of information about all the different support and classes and we’ve registered with the hub so we’ll definitely be back again soon.”
Also celebrating their daughter’s big day were Athena Twigg and partner Dale Lumsdon who were registering the birth of five-day-old Lola.
The family from Whitfield, Hexham, were keen to register her birth as soon as possible, as Dale, a self-employed labourer was about to begin a new contract working away from home.
When an appointment at the Blyth hub came up, they combined it with a trip to take Lola to meet some family members.
Athena, 28, who worked in a café before taking maternity leave and has two older children, Sofia, 9, and Oliver, 6 said: “We really wanted to get Lola registered before Dale went away. It was a really relaxed informal environment, which was very welcoming and the staff and the building were both lovely.
“I was given leaflets all about the activities on in my local area and I think I’ll be going along to the baby sensory classes, as I did them with my other children and they are brilliant.
“I think this kind of support for families is massively important to everyone.
“At home we do lots of things like family walks and magical imaginative play, but I think it’s great to be able to come to somewhere where you can meet other parents and babies and play and take part in activities.”
During her visit to Berwick, Dame Andrea spoke to Kayleigh Johnson, who was taking part in a sensory play session with her eight-month-old son Liam.
Kayleigh, 32, from Berwick, who works as a teaching assistant, said: “We started by coming to the Brilliant Babies sessions – which were exactly that –brilliant! We’ve met so many people and both Liam and I love coming.
“I’ve had so much advice and it’s been great to have so much support in one place – from being able to come and have him weighed and see a health visitor though to advice on weaning.
“He’s absolutely thriving and when I go back to work, he’s going to start coming to the nursery sessions here too. They run in term-time and holidays too and it is reassuring for me that he knows a lot of the staff already and they know him.”
Northumberland’s network of Children’s Centres relaunched as Family Hubs in September 2022 after the council was selected as an eligible authority to join the Government-backed programme.
The programme will see 75 areas benefiting from the £300 million investment up to 2025. Northumberland was then selected as one of 14 “trailblazer” local authorities awarded additional funding to fast-track delivery of these services, leading the way and supporting other local authorities.
Councillor Guy Renner-Thompson, Cabinet member with responsibility for Children’s Services, said: “It was great to be able to showcase Northumberland’s Family Hubs and we are passionate about investing in support for families at the earliest opportunity as we believe this will give children the best start in life.
“The quality of Early Years provision in Northumberland is excellent and our Family Hubs play a key role in achieving that.
“Our Family Hubs are here for everyone and so a major part of what we are doing is to make the services as accessible as possible. As well as our main hubs we have outreach hubs in communities, such as in local fire stations and schools, along with a new digital offer and website too for those who prefer to access support online.
“We’re seeing more and more families registering and getting involved which is brilliant news and I’m really excited about further developments to come.”