Today, the Government has published their progress report on the Start for Life Vision and plans to extend Family Hubs, with a number of related publications for local authority areas, including:

  • A progress report on the best start for life vision written in consultation with Dame Andrea Leadsom MP, in her capacity as the Government’s early years advisor. The announcement confirmed the extension of Dame Andrea’s term as the Government’s early years adviser.
  • Confirmation that all 75 eligible Local Authorities (LAs) have successfully signed up to the £300 million Family Hubs and Start for Life programme announced in the autumn budget.
  • Confirmation of the announcement in the autumn budget of £10 million investment between April 2023 and March 2025 in innovative Start for Life workforce pilots in approximately 5 areas. These pilots will test ideas on how best to support the workforce to give babies the best start in life.
  • The names of 14 LAs who have been selected as trailblazer sites. These trailblazers will receive extra funding and will lead the way and support other local authorities to improve services that are offered to families, so that these can be rolled out more widely across the country.
  • Guidance for LAs on publishing their ‘Start for Life Offers’. Every local area is required to develop and make clearly accessible a coherent and joined-up Start for Life offer that sets out the support that families may need. Broadly, support will fall into 2 categories:
    • universal services – health visiting is listed as one of six essential services
    • additional, targeted or specialist services and support.
  • The funding also supports the establishing of local parent and carer panels, which will ensure that families are able to influence the improvement of Start for Life offers.
  • The names of the final five LAs enrolled on DfE’s £12 million Family Hubs Transformation Fund, building on the seven LAs that were announced last May.
  • Separately, Government is also confirming the final five areas to receive investment from the Family Hubs Transformation Fund, which will transition services which used to operate under the Sure Start banner over to the Family Hub model. This will enable a further 12 local authorities across England to open family hubs by March 2024.

Key documents published on 9 February 2023:

Other related guidance published in August 2022:


Today, the Government has published the programme guide for the 75 local authority areas that are eligible to receive a share of the £301.75 million funding package for the Family Hubs and Start for Life programme for the period 2022–2025. The guidance sets out the programme’s vision, objectives and key deliverables. It will be of interest to health visitors in England as well as those responsible for commissioning and delivering services. The guide also contains a range of links to evidence sources which will be of interest to those working in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The programme includes details of how the investment in ‘Start for Life’ announced last autumn will be spent.

Eligible local authorities are being encouraged to ‘be ambitious and present plans which take you further towards the vision of a seamless, integrated offer of support for all families delivered through a family hub model, with tailored support available for those who need it most. This is an exciting opportunity to improve the lives of babies, children and families’.

Alison Morton, iHV Executive Director says:

“This investment in the earliest years of life in 75 selected local authorities is welcomed, and the iHV will be looking to support areas as they design their services, built on the best evidence of ‘what works’.

“We urge the Government to be equally ‘ambitious’ in its next steps and extend this programme of support to all local authorities in England as a national priority.

“The success of this programme will also rest on having sufficient workforce with the right skills to develop and deliver the Start for Life Vision. This will require a demand-driven workforce plan – and, the evidence is clear that we need more health visitors!”

The Government has stated that, ‘this is an exciting opportunity to improve the lives of babies, children and families… [by] working together with delivery partners and families to ensure parents and carers in your area receive the support they need to care for their babies and children’.

The evidence and best practice gathered from this programme will inform the case for future investment and support transformation in the delivery of both family and Start for Life services across the whole of England.


The Institute of Health Visiting welcomes Saturday’s announcement by the Government of the 75 local authority areas selected for a share of £302 million to create new Family Hubs in England.

The announcement puts an end to an anxious wait for local authorities, and was made as part of a broader package of family-related announcements, including announcements relating to the Supporting Families programme and the government’s holiday activities and food programme. The full press release can be found here; it includes the names of the 75 eligible local authorities. The methodology for pre-selecting the 75 local authorities eligible for the programme can also be found here.

The Family Hubs and Start for Life programme is jointly overseen by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education. The Best Start for Life Vision to give every child the best start in life was launched last March, and the funding settlement was first set out in the autumn budget.

The £302 million for the Family Hubs and Start for Life programme includes:

  • £100 million for bespoke parent-infant relationship and perinatal mental health support
  • £82 million to create a network of Family Hubs, improving access to a wide range of integrated support services for families with children aged 0-19
  • £50 million to establish breastfeeding support services
  • £50 million to fund evidence-based parenting programmes
  • £10 million to support local authorities to publish a clear ‘Start for Life offer,’ and
  • A further £10 million to to trial innovative start for life workforce models.

Importantly, the Government has stipulated that the health visiting service is central to the success of the Best Start for Life Vision and is listed as one of six essential services that will form the core of the infrastructure of support available to all families in the Family Hub model.

Whilst no specific ‘ring-fenced’ investment in health visiting was forthcoming in this announcement, we have been advised by Government Advisor and Chair of the Early Years Review, Dame Andrea Leadsom MP, that health visitors will be ideally placed to make the most of this investment and deliver increased packages of support to address the priorities of breastfeeding, parent-infant relationship and perinatal mental health support and evidence-based parenting programmes as part of an integrated system of support. Within the 75 local authority areas, 5 areas will also receive a share of £10 million to trial innovative start for life workforce models to strengthen health visiting support.

Alison Morton, iHV Executive Director commented:

“This announcement will be good news for 75 local authorities who will receive much needed investment to strengthen the support that they provide to babies, young, children and families during the critical first 1001 days of life which lay the foundation for future health, wellbeing and success across the life course.

“To achieve their ambition to tackle health disparities and level up, it is vital that the Government also invests in the universal health visiting service which is a preventative public health service that ‘goes upstream’ and reaches all families – ideally preventing problems happening in the first place or identifying them early.

“Currently too many vulnerable children are ‘invisible’ to services and are missing out on the support that they need – we must do better and, to ensure that we do, we need more health visitors. We hope that this announcement marks the start of a shift in national policy that prioritises the critical first 1001 days of life. Vulnerable babies, young children and families live in every postcode, and further investment is needed to ensure that the Start for Life vision becomes a reality for the whole country.”

The iHV will be working with local authority areas to support the development of their evidence-based ‘Start for life’ offer and integrated pathways. We invite any local areas who are interested in our consultancy and sector-led improvement work to contact us for further information on bespoke packages of support at [email protected].

Further information on integrated pathways for perinatal and infant mental health (PIMH) support and the latest PIMH research can be found here, and the role of health visiting and who health visitors are can be found here.