CONSULTATION LAUNCHED ON IMPROVING EARLY YEARS SERVICES
A public consultation has begun on ways to meet the needs of individual children and their parents, including a call for closer working between local authorities, Strategic Health Authorities, Primary Care Trusts and Jobcentres Plus. The exercise has been launched by the Department for Education and Skills around new guidance produced jointly with the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Department of Health.
The guidance aims to help improve services for children in the light of the 2006 Childcare Act, which for the first time introduced a duty on local authorities to improve outcomes for all children from birth to age 5 and to end inequalities between them. The early years outcomes sets reducing inequalities as a priority and says this should be done by focusing on those children who are most at risk because of deprivation and disadvantage. The draft guidance outlines what councils and their partners should do to fulfil the obligations set out in the act.
The Children’s Minister, Beverley Hughes, said all children should be able to fulfil their potential, regardless of their family income or background and experiences in their early years were important in giving children a sound basis. “This means that all children’s services should be integrated at every level, from strategic planning through to front line delivery of services which maximise the benefits to children and their families, as we have already seen being put into action in Sure Start children’s centres and extended primary schools,” she said.
Health Minister, Ivan Lewis, said the consultation would help raise standards and improve children’s chances and he urged people to get involved in it and to make their views known.