What do children’s centres do?
Sure Start Children’s Centres bring together services for young children from birth to five years and their families in a multi-professional way. They work with children and families within and across the community and also make direct contact with families not accessing services. In order to reach the neediest children, children’s centres take services into family homes and community settings used by families as well offering them from the centre. Children’s centres ensure that their services are accessible to all and especially the neediest children and families. Children’s centres are a proven element of prevention and early intervention having a profound impact on the life chances of children and their families.
Children’s centre core purpose
The Department for Education (DfE) set out the core purpose for children’s centres in a joint document with the Department of Health called Supporting Families in the Foundation Years (2010)
This explains the government’s vision for how services for families with young children should be offered to ensure that by the time children reach school age they are ready to take advantage of all the opportunities available to them.
Supporting Families in the Foundation Years explains the crucial role children’s centres play in offering early help to families with young children, particularly those in greatest need and describes this early intervention as at the heart of the core purpose.
The national core purpose meets the duties from the Childcare Act 2006 Section 1 to improve the well-being of children under five and reduce inequalities.
Improving outcomes for young children and reducing inequalities
The DfE continued commitment to Sure Start children’s centres reinforces the significance of ‘early intervention’ to achieve positive outcomes for children and families.
‘The government is committed to Sure Start children’s centres. Children’s centres play a crucial role in early intervention, ensuring families can get help when they need it, tackling issues early and helping to prevent costly problems from emerging later on. The Government wants the network of children’s centres to be retained but focused much more effectively on those families who need them the most’. (DfE, 2011)
It is intended that through an offer of universal services developed to identify and reach families whose children are most at risk of poor outcomes, children’s centres can reduce inequalities in:
- Child development and school readiness
Supported by improved:
- Parenting aspirations, self esteem and parenting skills
- Child and family health and life chances
The core purpose will increase the potential of children’s centres to:
- reach and support all families through universal services, targeted services and specialist support for those families with greatest need
- establish an integrated approach in supporting those families with greatest need through partnership working with partners
- ensure all children and their families are at the centre of the core purpose.
By providing this offer of integrated services for families, children’s centres contribute to fulfilling the local authority duty to improve the well being of young children, reduce inequalities and to provide early childhood services in an integrated manner outlined in the Childcare Act 2006, Sure Start Children’s Centre Statutory Guidance 2005 and revised draft guidance 2012.