Headlines: December 1st, 2006



Local authorities and their partners are being given new guidance that sets out high expectations for Sure Start Children’s Centres and their efforts to tackle child poverty by improving the lives of under-fives and their families. The guidelines bring together evidence and best practice on ways to reach those families that are most in need.

The new guidance was unveiled by the Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes. It includes advice on developing services so they are accessible to all families, particularly the most disadvantaged, and it underlines the importance of effective partnership working in early years services; and how children’s centres can best work with the range of families in a diverse society. At the same time the Department for Education and Skills has published a new framework for planning and running children’s centres. This emphasises the need to ensure they are using evidence- based practice to improve outcomes.

The guidance on Sure Start Children’s Centres is based on two reports from the National Evaluation of Sure Start, looking at how local programmes have empowered parents and communities. They draw together evidence on what measures are effective in delivering outreach and home visiting services to the most socially excluded families. The reports’ key findings show the local programmes have helped individual parents so they feel less isolated, more valued and more confident and that as a result those parents have reported the positive impacts on their child’s development. The studies also find that home visiting can be used to ensure services get to the people that need them and that effective outreach, making contact with the whole community, is a key component in getting to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

Beverley Hughes said Sure Start was one of this Government’s proudest achievements and was central to an ambitious vision to end child poverty. “The first Sure Start babies are now at primary school and we have seen the initiative grow too, from the early local programmes and neighbourhood nurseries to a network of over 1,000 children’s centres at the service of 800,000 children and their parents,” she said.

The new guidance was designed to make clear what parents and children could expect and how children’s centres should make sure they were meeting local needs.