A multi-generational family gather together in a group hug, reflecting the village of support it takes to raise children

It Takes a Village: the case for family support in every community

Type Policy and research document

Published on
4 September 2021

Raising children presents challenges for most parents and many will from time to time need support from a ‘village’ – whether that’s extended family, neighbours or universal statutory services such schools or the NHS. For some families however, particularly those who face complex underlying socioeconomic challenges, there is an urgent need for specialist family support – often referred to as ‘early help’.

Barnardo’s is the UK’s largest national children’s charity and we have been supporting vulnerable children for over 150 years. While our original focus was on providing homes for children and young people who could not be cared for by their own parents, our more recent history has seen us move into being a significant service provider in the field of family support. This service base includes a wide range of services including children’s centres, and the delivery of the Troubled Families Programme (now Supporting Families), which conducts targeted interventions for families experiencing multiple problems.

This report draws on Barnardo’s experience in communities across the country to highlight what we think effective family support looks like. It makes the case for ensuring that all families have access to the ‘village’ it takes to raise a child and to keep them safe. The report also draws on our own economic analysis of our Isle of Wight family support services that demonstrates how early support services can achieve financial savings.

Our recommendations:

  • Multi-year investment in the services families need. This should recognise that positive outcomes and financial savings from early support can take a number of years to materialise.
  • The UK Government sets out a national framework for delivering ‘family hubs’ in every community, whilst maintaining local discretion. The recently established National Centre for Family Hubs could help to define this alongside identifying and disseminating best practice.
  • Family hubs should include both universal services and targeted support for families with the greatest need. Family hubs work best when they are fully embedded within the communities they serve. This is best achieved by providing a centre where any family can go to access basic parenting advice and universal services combined with the provision of specific specialised support for those who need it.
  • A Cabinet Minister for Children. Given the central importance of support for children in achieving the UK Government’s ‘levelling up’ objectives, we believe there is a strong case for a Cabinet Minister with specific responsibility for overseeing improvements in children’s outcomes and the resulting cost-savings.
  • UK Government leadership on the move towards hybrid – physical and digital – delivery of services. This should include investment in digital offers for families, in order to complement, but not replace, face-to-face support. Additionally, there must be a clear plan to end digital poverty and exclusion, so that everyone can access the benefits of the online world.

Find out more about our Family hub services

Family hubs and children centres

Learn more about our work delivering family support in communities across the UK.

Barnardo's Family Space website

Explore our virtual family hub, offering you information, advice, guidance and support for all stages of your parenting or caring journey.

Learn about the Glasgow school based family service

Read our blog about Vikki, a support worker at the Glasgow Learning Service and what she does to support families.