New Luton Integrated Family Partnership Service

Luton Council’s Executive has approved the proposal to develop a new integrated family partnership service which will support the most vulnerable children and families in Luton.

It was not a decision that the council wanted to make, but due to the catastrophic impact that Covid-19 has had on its finances, it was forced to set an emergency budget in July 2020 including £22million worth of savings. As part of this budget, the Executive agreed officers should explore and seek views from the public and staff on a proposal to reprioritise non-statutory children’s services with almost £1.6m less funding.

The proposal involves merging several services including Flying Start Children’s Centres, Early Help services, and Manor Road Contact Centre and stopping delivery of a range of universal and lower level targeted services.

The proposal includes:

  • delivering services via two main delivery hubs: the Leagrave Centre, in combination with another venue in that area due to be confirmed by the end of February will serve as one hub, whilst Manor Contact Centre will serve as the second. Each will have a satellite delivery site (London Road Resource Centre and Beech Hill Children’s Centre
  • offering support in two ways, either by directly working with a family or family member on a one to one basis, at one of the hubs or within the family home or through group sessions
  • providing an integrated support service for the most vulnerable families
  • creating a model of support that encourages families to access and build upon existing family, friends and community networks that aims to empower people to develop their own solutions and goals
  • supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, providing support for the whole family
  • closing Flying Start Children’s Centre sites, with some of the sites being repurposed to be used to deliver early years and early help services
  • developing close working relationships with nurseries, schools and other key services to deliver targeted and structured interventions to the most vulnerable children and families in five neighbourhood areas: Central, North, South, East and West

We carried out an extensive public consultation over a six-week period (3 August to 20 September 2020) to enable parents, carers and other stakeholders the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposal. The consultation received 1,251 responses, where the majority of respondents expressed concerns with changes to the existing services. The council considered alternative suggestions put forward by the public during the consultation but these had to be rejected as they would not allow us to achieve the necessary savings nor enable us to best deliver outcomes for our residents within the resources available.

Cllr Mahmood Hussain, portfolio holder with responsibility for children’s services said: “While we have made this decision with a very heavy heart, we believe the integrated family partnership service will help us build the right foundations to ensure children, young people and families who are most vulnerable and are facing the most complex and significant challenges can receive the required services so they are protected.

“The consultation we carried out last year clearly shows how much our Flying Start Children’s Centres are valued within our communities and we appreciate that many will see their closure as a huge loss. We recognise the positive impact these centres have had on supporting young children and families, but this pandemic has forced us to make some extremely tough decisions. However we will ensure as many of these centres will be repurposed so that they can be used to deliver early years and early help services. We have no choice but to prioritise statutory services and use the limited resources available in the most effective way to meet the needs of the most vulnerable within our communities.”

Our primary partner in the current Flying Start Partnership – Early Years Alliance – using funding from the London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL) community fund, will continue to deliver a range of universal services including workshops and parenting programmes for families. They have also been successful in securing two-year funding from the Starting Well fund established by the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England with the aim of improving health outcomes for children from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and those in areas of highest deprivation from preconception to two and a half years old.

Department of Health and Social Care – Starting Well Health and Wellbeing Funding Success

The Early Years Alliance have been successful in securing two year funding to support continued delivery of the ‘Flying Start’ antenatal and post-natal pathway.  The funding will enhance service delivery to increase engagement from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and areas of highest deprivation.  A single point of access into the service, through the Flying Start office, and in the longer term the Flying Start website, will simplify the process for parents to access support at the right time and enable a partnership approach of service delivery.

The Early Years Alliance, working in partnership with Active Luton and Total Wellbeing, and others will provide a pathway of programmes aimed at giving the best possible start in life by reducing inequalities that some families face.  The Health and Wellbeing Fund, based on the theme of ‘starting well’ aligns with the Flying Start vision of children having a ‘flying start’ in life, and focusses on:

  • Boosting mental health for new and expectant mothers
  • Improving the development of babies and children
  • Giving people the best chance for a healthy start by preventing obesity and diabetes

Christine Rogers – Flying Start Implementation Manager said ‘getting it right in the antenatal period and early years is important as this is the bedrock for future life chances for our children.  We also know that engagement with services for some communities can be more difficult. We will work with communities to understand how services can be more inclusive, how barriers can be removed and in the longer term help reduce inequalities.’

The service will ensure that engagement with communities and partner agency service users becomes an embedded part of the development and delivery of services.  External evaluation will also form part of the Starting Well programme and we will be working with the University of Bedfordshire, as our key partner.

The new pathway is currently under development and services will be implemented from April 2021.  Further details will follow.