'Embed charities in support for families in crisis', says former Children’s Commissioner

Charities need to be at the heart of an expanded roll out of support for families at risk of crisis, according to a former Children’s Commissioner for England.

Anne Longfield, who was Commissioner between 2015 and 2021, wants to see the government’s planned roll out of Family Hubs, which offer help to families, ramped up with charities and community groups at the heart of support.

She has made the call in the latest report, called A New Partnership with Families, to emerge from her Commission on Young Lives, which she launched after leaving office to look at tackling the links between young people and crime.

"Charities and community groups should be embedded as a core partner in delivering support for children and families, including the provision of Family Hubs,” states her report.

It adds: “When families did talk about getting ‘real’ and lasting help it was very often from local community or specialist charities.

“What emerges is the vital importance of building lasting relationships capable of understanding families and their situations, providing long-term support rather than closing cases, and of approaches that worked in partnership with families to find solutions rather than ‘doing to’ them.”

Her report warns that unless early help by charities and other support services is in place there will be a “conveyor belt of vulnerable children available to county lines, gangs and abusers”.

Among most at risk families are those living in poverty, with mental illness, addiction and domestic violence.

Ethnic minority families are also at risk, and Longfield adds that there is a growing group of middle-class affluent. parents struggling to access support that specialist charities can provide.

Longfield, who is a former chief executive of the charity 4Children, said “Government’s ambition must be for a new partnership with families that provides statutory services, and charitable groups with the armoury they need to fight back.

“If we help and support parents, we make it harder for children to be groomed, coerced, exploited and harmed. Those who seek to exploit children know it and policymakers and services need to catch up fast.”

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