Hannah Youell is a Family Hub Champion based in a Family Hub in Portsmouth. Hannah’s Family Hub is one of five based around the city. The hubs form part of the government’s Start for Life programme and Home-Start Portsmouth has secured a two-year contract to deliver the programme to provide extra support to families.


Getting my three boys ready and out of the house is quite a mission, but the older they get it does get easier, something I often tell families with young children.

Every Monday I get to start my week welcoming the parents and their children to our stay and play group. I’m so lucky to do a job I love. I say hello to the parents and volunteers. It’s important they know I’m here and available to them.

A dad was struggling with child's behaviour

A dad approaches me. He shares how he is struggling with his older child’s behaviour. After 15 minutes of listening, it also emerges he’s feeling low and isolated. Issues are often connected. If a parent is feeling low and stressed, it follows that they may also be struggling to connect with their child and that they’re working on quite low reserves.

Our starting point is about building up the connection between the parent and the child. When that bond is secure is when so many challenges can be overcome. We chat about simple things Dad can do and I make a note to speak to Home-Start’s family coordinator because I think he could benefit by being matched to one of our home visiting volunteers.

Once he leaves, I write up my notes and make the referral. I can hear chatting outside. The mums are starting to arrive for the breastfeeding group. I go over and say hello. I’ve been providing support to one of the mums with introducing solids. She runs up to me to share how excited she was her daughter enjoyed her first taste of butternut squash.

Worries about delayed speech

As I head back to the office, I bump into one of the health visitors. She asks if I can contact a mum about her worries about her toddler’s delayed speech and suggest some activities to promote communication. This is very typical. Every day health visitors and midwives refer parents to me. It’s a win/win. It enables me to give parents the support they need while also enabling health visitors and midwives to manage their caseloads. 


As soon as I get to my desk, I see a note from a colleague about a family living in temporary accommodation. I’m going to call the mum later on today to talk about benefits and signpost her to other sources of support. There are areas of significant deprivation in Portsmouth, and this affects so many aspects of their life – from their health to education and it has a huge impact on their future.

Wary of professionals/ A mum reluctant to join any groups

After lunch, I drive over to a family’s home. The mum has been reluctant to join any groups or parenting programmes. She has a social worker but doesn’t feel very comfortable accessing support yet and is a bit wary of professionals. I know the little girl will be starting school in September so I gently suggest to mum that she may like to join the school readiness group run by one of our partners, The Parenting Network. When it’s needed, we do sometimes go to a family’s home to meet them to help them understand what happens at the hub.


This morning it’s our Understanding you Child course. I’m really excited to be delivering this. It follows the Solihull Approach which brings together three core psychological constructs of containment, reciprocity and behaviour management with the aim of helping parents understand their child’s behaviour. When all the parents arrive, the first thing we do is make them a hot drink. It sounds like such a small thing, but it’s actually hugely important in making our families feel welcome and valued.

Supportive network

The course is very reflective, and parents openly share their own experiences. It’s lovely to see bonds building and the parents forming their own supportive network that continues long after the course ends.

Wednesdays always feel like an especially busy day at the hub. After the parenting course, there’s the school readiness group. It’s great that we can work with other partners to provide such comprehensive support to families. I chat to the group leader and let her know the mum I spoke to yesterday does want her daughter to join which is great news. For this mum it feels like a huge step forward.

I’m delighted and I know the little girl will really benefit from this group. It also means the mum is starting to access our support. Now that we’ve made the first step, I’m sure I can start to build on this alongside mum. We know if we can get in early, we can resolve much bigger issues further down the line.


Before getting to the hub, I call in on a pregnant mum to chat to her about our antenatal course ‘Understanding Your Pregnancy, Labour and Birth’ we’ll be running in the summer. She is quite young, isolated and doesn’t have any family support. As well as helping her to get ready for the birth, I’m hoping this will connect her to a new group of friends she can share the parenting experience with.

Once I get back to the office, I do my weekly check-in calls with two parents I support over the phone. The first mum is on the waiting list for additional support. She is struggling with sleep behaviour. Today she sounds even more tired than usual. Every week we talk about what’s happened and set manageable goals for the following week. I try and get parents to take a step back and view the situation objectively. The best thing is always when the parent themselves come up with suggestions. We always say they’re the experts in their child, and they will know what will work best for the family – they just need to be given the space and time to do so.

I call my next parent who is a very busy mum in a high-powered job. She doesn’t have the time to attend parenting courses or any of our groups. She is also struggling with her children’s challenging behaviour and often feels overwhelmed. I’m able to offer her a place where she can offload. Every week we focus on one thing. With this mum my job really is to listen, and we dip into our toolkit as and when we need it.


This morning I’m excited to be meeting the local refugee and asylum charity for the first time to discuss how we can best support the parents and children. This is a coordinated approach across all services, and we ensure we are connecting families to groups and programmes to help them feel settled and safe. It’s hard to comprehend what it must be like for these families and how isolated they can feel.

Next, I head over to a community event where we have a stand. All the family hub champions take turns in attending community events. We do whatever we can to raise awareness of our work to ensure families know we are here.

Our goal is that no family ever feels alone. It was a long time ago since I first walked through the doors of my children’s centre as a new mum. Over recent years there has been a gap in support for parents of younger children, so I’m pleased to be part of what is an amazing service for families living in my community.

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