Friday 28 August 2015
close up of baby

We know that parents and children value the support and range of services that children’s centres offer. Every day we see how children’s centres make a difference to families and help to give children the best start in life

Like many local services, children’s centres are facing a difficult period. Reductions in local authority budgets have presented significant new challenges.  

We believe that children’s centres should and can retain a vital role in supporting children and families in communities across England. To achieve this, the Beyond the Building briefing series considers how centres can innovate and develop to meet current and future challenges.

The briefings draw on research with staff working in children’s centres across England, and our experience in delivering centres and early help services.

Data sharing

Crucial in getting any child or parent the help they need is having the right information to reach out to all parents and children. Data sharing is a long standing problem for children’s centres. We propose ways of improving data sharing from birth through to school which will be cost effective and easy to achieve.

Beyond the building series: data sharing

Focusing on the foundation years

The first years (0-5) of a child’s life are crucial for their development, health and future happiness. Children’s centres are already working well with young children. We show how this form of support can go further and make the most of resources across health and the early years.

Our children’s centre briefing series presents recommendations on how centres can deal with the challenges they face. 

  • Over half of children’s centres say they work largely with parents of children aged under five.
  • Three quarters of staff want to do more work with expectant parents.
  • Local authorities should take a ‘foundation years first’ approach to children’s centres – prioritising resources to help give all children the best start in life.
  • The Department for Education should introduce an outcomes framework for children’s centres that focuses on child development in the foundation years – bringing clarity and consistency of purpose.
  • Health visitors should be based in children’s centres – improving early identification of problems through their universal contact with families.
  • Children’s centres should be used as a hub for antenatal services – bringing expectant parents into centres that can offer extra support where needed.

If you have any questions or queries, please email [email protected]

Beyond the building series: focusing on the foundation years

Evolving models of children’s centres

As children’s centres face continued budget pressures we look at the current direction of travel for models of children’s centres and the challenges this is presenting. This briefing shows how the services children’s centres offer can be delivered in new ways across an area, going beyond accessing a single building.

Pressures on funding and the increasing work with families who have higher needs, is leading to children’s centres changing the level and focus of services. Forty-eight percent of children’s centres staff believe that centres will not be in a better position to help children and families in five years’ time. Many centres now face a difficult challenge in continuing to provide services all families can access.

We believe that children’s centres can retain their vital role in supporting children and families in communities across England.

We recommend that:

  • Introduce an outcomes framework for children’s centres on children reaching a good level of development by age five to improve children’s life chances.
  • Embrace the use of multiple sites, taking classes and programmes to locations across the community.
  • Adopt a  flexible approach underpinned by strong leadership and on-going consultation with parents.
  • Retain a minimum level of services that all families can access in the foundation years, particularly from the antenatal period to age 2½.
  • Link children’s centres with the free early education entitlement and become the base for health visitors.

If you have any questions or queries, please email [email protected]

Beyond the building series: the evolution of Children's Centres

Fair by Five

There are no simple solutions to some of the challenges that children’s centres face. In many cases it will require a range of options and approaches.

The Government’s Life Chances strategy is in development. Investing in children under five is the best way to ensure their future wellbeing and success.

In the most deprived areas of England, three out of five children walk through the school gates on their first day not ready to learn. Action for Children is committed to making sure every child has the love, support and opportunity to reach their potential.