“Absolutely essential” hubs are being launched across Wirral providing much needed help for families following a nearly £1m government boost.
There are currently plans for 12 hubs to be set up over the borough during 2024 with eight of these now open in Bromborough, New Ferry, Moreton, Woodchurch, Seacombe, and three in Birkenhead.
Each hub will be open throughout the week with different services there to support families with housing and health issues, domestic abuse, financial problems, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support, and employment advice.
The scheme is being set up by Wirral Council funded through the UK Government’s Family Hubs and Start for Life programme with the aim of having one stop shop family hubs across Wirral to improve the health and education of babies, children, and their parents.
At the launch of a new hub at Ganneys Meadow Nursery and Family Centre on the Woodchurch Estate, Mayor Jerry Williams said the hubs were incredibly important, adding, “The back-up those agencies are providing for the local community is just absolutely essential and the sheer diversity of it is quite amazing and is much needed during these really difficult times that we’re all living in.”
Jo Simpson, Wirral Council’s operation manager for early help children’s services and lead on the Family Hub roll out said each hub will help provide support specific to each community and going forward will adapt to their needs working with those who use the service.
She said reaction to the hubs had been really positive, adding, “I think it’s being able to access support at the earliest point in that it’s accessible and near to them. Families really want that early support before things become too big or overwhelming,” adding: “One parent said to me I used to be so scared to ask for help and now I know I will never be scared again.”
Ms Simpson said peer support groups had also been set up through the new hubs, adding, “Parents said they wanted somewhere they could come and breathe, not somewhere that could fix everything for them but they could come together.”
Ganneys Meadow headteacher Kathryn Kennedy said the family hub would build on their previous work supporting the local community and working with local partners including Wirral Council, adding: “We feel as though the school is very much at the heart of the community.”
Pointing to long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, “We know that communication and language skills have been impacted and that is the key to future learning so by supporting families and working with services, it’s about the holistic support for families and for that child to have a voice right from the beginning.”
She added, “I think it’s about meeting the whole family’s needs. It’s about relationships and understanding the families and understanding the community so when barriers to learning open up, they can work together to overcome them.”
One service operating out of the family hubs is Households Into Work, a Liverpool City Region Combined Authority initiative working with those over 16 to upskill them and tackle barriers to employment over 12 months
Steve Lavin of Households Into Work said, “We tend to work with people with lots of different needs: debt, social isolation, learning difficulties or child care needs. It might be somebody really wants to get a job but they are limited with what they can do in terms of hours.”
Rachel Daley from Positivitree, an organisation supporting families with SEND needs, said, “We have met families here today who aren’t just from the Woodchurch, families have travelled from Moreton and Wallasey,” adding: “The big impact will be reducing social isolation and health inequalities.
“There are parts of the Wirral that are in need and let down over the years but bringing community organisations together really addresses those needs. Our organisation has been built on lived experience so we get it and that enables us to work with our parents to make sure that families are being heard.”
Gill Jones, Wirral Council’s operation lead for domestic abuse services, said the hubs were also helping protect people from domestic abuse by creating a safe place for them to come forward with several approaching the service already.
She added, “I can’t tell you, to be able to come into the community and offer our support, to be able to access the family hub and through that, our intervention is absolutely critical.
“Statistics tell us that people experience low to medium risk domestic abuse about fifty times before reaching out and 36 times for high-risk abuse.”
She said, “If we are in the community, we know that you are going to be delivering those interventions,” adding: “We are trying to be there before they make that first phone call and we can offer that support to them. I hope that this is really going to break down those barriers. We also know that domestic abuse is rarely seldom all that is going on with that family.”
Information on the new hubs and what services are on offer can be found on Wirral Council’s website
Lead image: Ganneys Meadow Headteacher Kathryn Kennedy. Credit: Edward Barnes