The Children’s Society is committed to ensuring that children receive both the best start in life, and the best chance for a positive future. One way we seek to achieve this is through our network of more than 40 children’s centres across England. 

But we know that there are many challenges to engaging families that most need this support. Our Breaking Barriers report outlines the barriers disadvantaged families face to accessing children’s centres and how these can be overcome.

Children’s centres support for disadvantaged families

Children’s Centres are a vital early intervention service targeted at families with children in their early years (up to the age of five). The range of services they provide include high quality childcare; debt and benefit advice; family support; healthy eating sessions; parenting programmes; and access to employment, training and volunteering opportunities.

Missing out

We know that too many disadvantaged families are still face barriers to accessing this vital support.  The report found that many disadvantaged families are not even aware of what children’s centres are or what services they provide and some found it difficult to access their local centre. Children’s centres also faced difficulties identifying the disadvantaged families in their reach area due to not being provided with adequate data on these families.

Mapping cuts to the Early Intervention Grant

Now more than ever, it is crucially important to find ways to effectively reach these families.  As this report shows, funding for early intervention services has been significantly cut since 2010 – a trend set to continue in the near future. The Early Intervention Grant, which provides funding for children’s centres, will be halved in real terms between 2010 and 2015, from £3 billion a year down to £1.5 billion (in 2013 prices). As a consequence, many children's centres are inevitably under extreme financial pressure.  

We have also created map of the cuts to the early intervention grant in different local areas.

Recommendations

Breaking Barriers recommends changes to policy and practice at every level. These include central government protecting funding for early intervention services and making sure important data is more effectively shared with children’s centres, and local authorities consulting with children’s centres about their reach areas.