A minister from the government has journeyed to County Durham to observe and gain insight into the efforts being made to support families.

Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan visited Durham County Council’s Woodhouse Close Family Centre at Bishop Auckland, where she was given a warm welcome by representatives of the local authority and partners, as well as meeting some local families.

Minister Keegan and the council’s children and young people’s services Cabinet member and corporate director, Cllr Ted Henderson and John Pearce respectively, discussed the importance of Family Hubs. 

Durham was last year named as one of 75 authorities that could apply for funding from the government’s Family Hubs and Start for Life programme, which will provide whole-family support services from pregnancy, through a child’s early years until they reach the age of 19.

This will include mental health support, more support for parents and help with breastfeeding, as well as the development of the council’s network of family centres including Woodhouse Close into Family Hubs, to offer families with children of all ages improved access to support services.

Discussion also covered ‘early help’ – the provision of additional support to children, young people and families as soon as problems start to emerge, or to prevent the risk that problems will emerge in the future. Social work was also on the agenda with the minister speaking to some of the council’s social workers about their experiences and how they make a difference for the county’s children and young people.

Minister Keegan said: “It was fantastic to meet with families, early help workers and social workers to see first-hand the incredible work they do at Woodhouse Close Family Centre. Everyone I met was dedicated to supporting those in their care. 

“Durham has a brilliant apprenticeship programme, and it was wonderful to meet with a group of social worker apprentices and learn more about their journey.

“The council has done great work on its early help and family support services, and I look forward to continued work with Durham County Council to ensure that all families have access to the support they need.”

Cllr Henderson said: “We have brought the Secretary of State to the hub because it showcases how lots of services can come together to give the best support we possibly can for the parents and children. This is going to be a feature for the future and it was positive to see such interest from government in what we are doing in County Durham. 

“We have great teams of social workers across the county and we also discussed how we can support new recruits into the profession through routes such as social work apprenticeships.

“I hope she has learnt today what we are doing and how much we do care for the families and the children of the county.”

To see a video of the visit, go to https://youtu.be/UxzOCm663M0

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