More families in need supported by children’s centres

More families in need supported by children’s centres

Research compiled by the DoSPI (Department of Social Policy and Intervention) at the University of Oxford states that “children’s centres are reaching over 90% of families most in need.”

The report, Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England (ECCE), documents the “reach area” and levels of use that children’s centres in England are currently experiencing.

It says: “The high registration levels (over 90% on average) mean that most eligible families have the option to engage with services and the data indicates that the majority of families do choose to take-up services with over half (55%) of the 0-4 age group in the reach area using centres over one year.”

The report draws on data from a national sample of 128 children’s centres, concentrating on those which serve the 30% of areas on the IDACI (Income Deprivation Affection Children Index) with a key objective of discovering how the most disadvantaged local areas were being “reached” and utilised.

Of the 128 children’s centres used for the study, 76% of the centres were physically located in the 30% most disadvantaged areas in the IDACI measure, showing that local authorities were clearly targeting children’s centres towards more deprived local areas.

Education and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss said: “The government’s clear that children’s centres have a vital role to play in making sure families get the help they need by offering a wide range of local, flexible services so they can choose what works best for their family. Today’s evidence show that centres are doing just that – acting as a valuable lifeline for the families up and down the country.”

There are two phases to the ECCE report, which will eventually expand in analysing and inspecting the 3000 children’s centres and 531 additional premises which are currently available for use as part of the Sure Start programme.

Commenting at the Education Select Committee follow-up session on Sure Start Children’s Centres, 4Children chief executive Anne Longfield OBE said: “4Children believes that there is an opportunity for children’s centres to be placed at the heart of children and family services in local areas. We would also see this as the time to embed children’s centres on the statute and ring fence funding for them in every area.”

Ofsted aims to overhaul its current inspection framework before planning to inspect all the Sure Start children’s centres in each local authority area.

The government says it “wants children’s centres to reach out to local parents, improving outcomes for both young children and their families by supporting child development, boosting parenting skills and improving health and life chances.”