Project overview

We have developed several digital products to improve how professionals, young people and families engage with support services in their local family hub network. This part of the wider family hubs and start for life programme led by DfE and DHSC, which is funding local authorities to implement family hubs.

Partnership working

We are delivering the project through an iterative, agile process. We are working collaboratively with a number of local authority partners who are helping to develop, test and iterate our digital products.

During the discovery phase we identified user needs and developed digital solutions. These digital solutions were then tested in the alpha phase. We are now in the private beta stage. This stage involves piloting the digital products within our partner local authority areas.

We are currently working with:

  • Lewisham
  • North East Lincolnshire
  • Redbridge
  • Salford
  • Sheffield
  • Somerset
  • Wolverhampton

Gaining wider input

Our partnership working is supplemented by our local authority co-design group.

We set up the co-design group in September 2022. The group is made up of representatives from local authorities across England who have an interest in supporting families and family hubs. Each local authority provides updates on family hub progress in their area and brings with them their own expertise and experience. This helps us to gain a deeper understanding of the local authorities' goals, challenges and preferences.

The group has taken part in several workshops which has supported the developemnt of the family hubs digital products, helping us identify:

  • new features
  • project risks
  • communicaation needs

Products in test stage

We are currently building and testing two products which allow users to search and find support services. We are also building a third product that allows local authorities and voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations to add and manage the details of services.

Find support for your family ('Find')

Helps parents, guardians, young people and families find support services available within their local family hub network.

Connect families to support ('Connect')

Local authority professionals (such as social workers) who work with families and young people can search for relevant support services and make requests on their behalf. This product allows professionals to share information about a family with a service provider more efficiently.

This service allows professionals to share information about families with service providers more efficiently.

Manage family support services and accounts ('Manage')

Helps local authorities and VCS organisations add and manage users and services on Find and Connect.

Service providers can update their service information on the national directory that powers both Find and Connect.

Data and sustainability

We know that many local authorities do not have robust, standardised data systems. This will act as a barrier to the wider adoption of our products.

Organisations will have the ability to manually enter data about their services into the directory through Manage. However, we know that having the option to automatically add services from existing databases will make things easier for everyone. The use of data standards could make this process easier.

We are now using a single data standard (Open Referral UK). We are planning to create application programme interfaces (APIs) to allow the exchange of services data between local authority and DfE systems. We are also exploring the option of using these APIs to collect and share family services data across local authorities.

The benefits of this would include making it easier for local authorities to store and share data with us, central and local government, and VCS organisations. This would also allow better integration with existing systems including:

  • council run Family Information Services (FIS) which provide advice on available support
  • local internal systems
  • borough and partnership special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision
  • other regional and national directories

All of this will help improve the quality and quantity of service data included in the family hubs digital products.

Next steps

We will continue refining and iterating the digital products and work towards them covering more local authority areas. We will then move into the live phase to continue improving the products in a sustainable way.

Notes for editors and readers

This page shares the ideas and thinking of the project team at DfE. Please be aware that we cannot respond to questions about the department, policy, or other services.

You can find out more about the DfE’s priorities and policies on GOV.UK, along with how to raise enquiries with the department.

Design histories

Read more in our design histories.

Other projects

Education health and care plan digital project

Vulnerable Children and Families Team