Aberdeen ,

Aberdeen City Council puts family wellbeing first

Aberdeen City Council’s Strategic Commissioning Committee has today (Thursday 27 August) agreed a contract to Children 1st to partner the Council in the development of three Family Wellbeing Hubs in the city. 

The three-year contract followed a tendering process to deliver whole family support within Family Wellbeing Hubs and includes a direct award for two years. 

Aberdeen City Council; Aberdeen City Health & Social Care Partnership; and NHS Grampian - have committed to working collaboratively to provide the hubs on a joint commissioning basis with each partner committing resource to be aligned to the delivery of the hubs. 

Councillor Jenny Laing, Co-Leader of Aberdeen City Council said: “Children 1st have extensive experience of delivering a family wellbeing service. This more agile approach will enable a more holistic and responsive service to be provided in short, medium and longer term. All partners are of the view that the Hub model can and should be refined over time by utilising an action learning approach. 

“Learning from other countries and cities emerging from lockdown has recognised the significant impact of lockdown on mental wellbeing for children and families. For families who had pre-existing vulnerabilities the impact is more likely to be keenly felt. It is therefore critical that as Aberdeen emerges from lockdown, we are prepared and ready for a surge in demand in relation to mental wellbeing.” 

At the start of lockdown, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children, Aberdeen City Council established three “wellbeing hubs” to provide flexible and agile support to children and families where there were elevated levels of concern. The hubs were located in each of the City’s three priority areas – Northfield, Tillydrone and Torry. 

An external review by Education Scotland of the Hub model was commissioned and noted the Hub was a highly effective place for children to learn and thrive. Feedback from parents, children and young people highlighted how much they valued the emotional and practical support delivered by the hubs. 

Staff working in the hubs noted the shared purposed enabled a breaking down of professional barriers and a coming together to focus on the needs of children and families was something they enjoyed. 

The evaluation also recognised the opportunity to further strengthen the collaboration and integration across the partnership by developing the role and remit of the hubs to support families but also to challenge overly bureaucratic systems and processes that currently exist. 

Development of Family Wellbeing Hubs will build on the success of the Wellbeing Hubs developed in response to the COVID pandemic, which supported many vulnerable children, young people and their families during lockdown. The Hubs will have a key role supporting improvement in the mental health and wellbeing of our children, young people and their families. 

It is recognised that the wellbeing needs of children, young people and families as we emerge from lockdown will be very different to that which existed at the start of the year. Research is indicating there will be: 

  • Increased levels of anxiety and vulnerability among children and young people; 
  • Increased levels of family stress and discord; 
  • Increased levels of poverty;  
  • Social dislocation across all age groups;  
  • A widening of the attainment gap.  

The Hubs will be built iteratively with partners and communities to establish the right support for children and their families delivered at the right time. This embodies the national practice model – GIRFEC but also the key recommendations of the Mental Health Task Force Review and the Independent Care Review – ‘The Promise’.  

The proposed investment in local Family Wellbeing Hubs at the heart of each of three communities will provide early and preventative mental wellbeing support. This approach will also maximise current multidisciplinary roles re-configured to deliver a relational system of support for families. Additionally, given the known link between poverty and mental health, it is essential that the Hubs adopt an approach which practically combats the effects of poverty.