Government and local authorities must do more to find "innovative" ways to deliver a full range of children's centres services say Action for Children.
Their Beyond the Building report adds that pooling resources used for health visiting and free childcare in particular are areas that should be considered. They also warn that turning children's centres into just a targeted service in the face of cuts means that they will focus the needs of the most disadvantaged children instead of being available to all local families which risks making them stigmatising and effects their ability to identify problems early.
The charity says that better integration of health visitors and free childcare services will help ensure children’s centres retain a universal offering.
“One of the strengths of centres has been to bring services and programmes together for families and young children to have access to integrated, easily accessible health, early years and family support,” the charity’s Beyond the Building report states. There is a lack of alternative provision that offers this range and combination of support to families on a daily basis.
“Targeted services can only be delivered once a particular need has been identified. This is practically impossible without some form of service that brings families from across the community into contact with professionals.”
The report asks local authorities and the government to commit to delivering children’s centre services across the community, rather than from a single building. It says the government – which is undertaking a review of children's centres – should introduce a framework to measure their outcomes to improve accountability.