Policy Timeline

1989 The Children Act states ‘Every local authority shall provide such family centres as they consider appropriate in relation to children within their area.

1994 The Audit Commission report ‘Seen But Not Heard’ highlights the need to give family support a high priority, and recommends that family centres should be developed as a suitable focus for this work.

1998 Labour announces one of its flagship policies, Sure Start, in Parliament.

1999 Sure Start is launched as an area-based programme to deliver services and support to young children and their families in the 20% poorest wards in England with £450 million in funding in the first three years.

2003  The Government publishes Every Child Matters which proposed a shift from the centrally-controlled, targeted Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) to children’s centres. These centres would be controlled by local authorities and provide universal support. By this point there were 524 SSLPs.

2004 Phase One extends full coverage to the 20% most disadvantaged wards in England. This phase mostly involved converting existing SSLPs into children’s centres. A second Government report, The Ten Year Childcare Strategy concludes that children’s centres will form part of the government’s drive to increase the quality and availability of childcare and services for young children and families.

2006Phase Two brings the core offer to the remaining areas in the bottom 30% of the deprivation scale. The Childcare Act creates legal duties for local authorities to establish and run children’s centres.

2007  Capital funding peaks in 2007-08 at approximately £280 million and the Centre for Social Justice publishes the first Breakthrough Britain report, outlining the case for Family Hubs.

2008 Phase Three extends coverage of the programme nationwide.

2010  3633 children’s centres have opened by July, exceeding the Government target of 3500. The ‘core offer’ is replaced by a ‘core purpose’, which sets an overall objective for children’s centres of improving outcomes for young children and their families, particularly amongst those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, in order to reduce inequalities in child development and school readiness.

2014  The Centre for Social Justice published an update to the 2007 Breakthrough Britain report –Fully Committed? How A Government Could Reverse Family Breakdown which, although written by a different working group, came to the same conclusion on the centrality of Family Hub model to family support.

2015Labour Party Manifesto commits to ‘restore the role of Sure Start centres as family hubs…[and] encourage local services to co-locate, so that they work together to shift from sticking plaster solutions to integrated early help.’ 

2016  The All Party Parliamentary Group on Children’s Centres publishes Family Hubs: the Future of Children’s Centres and the Children’s Commissioner publishes Family Hubs: A Discussion Paper which states ‘Family Hubs deliver holistic, early intervention services to a whole community. Their introduction is a clear next step to coordinate existing services and support.

2017 The Manifesto to Strengthen Families is launched with the support of 60 Conservative MPs and Members of the Lords. They commit to encouraging every Local Authority to work with voluntary and private sector partners to deliver Family Hubs.

2019 Good practice is emerging across the country as more and more local authorities, voluntary sector and other providers across the country open Family Hubs. The Conservative Manifesto commits ‘to champion Family Hubs to serve vulnerable families with the intensive, integrated support they need to care for children – from the early years and throughout their lives.’

2020 The Troubled Families programme team in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government releases an Early Help System Guide laying out good practice. Including in this is: ‘Public services work together in integrated hubs based in the community with a common footprint.’