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Childcare enquiries tripled in children's centres when a dedicated member of staff from the Children's Information Service was based there for several days a week, a study has found. An evaluation was carried out on pilots set up by Opportunity Links in 23 children's centres from May 2005 to September 2006, to find out the most effective way of providing information and advice on childcare to families in Leicester, Sheffield, Rotherham, Cornwall and Somerset.

Childcare enquiries tripled in children's centres when a dedicated member of staff from the Children's Information Service was based there for several days a week, a study has found.

An evaluation was carried out on pilots set up by Opportunity Links in 23 children's centres from May 2005 to September 2006, to find out the most effective way of providing information and advice on childcare to families in Leicester, Sheffield, Rotherham, Cornwall and Somerset.

Four different delivery models were trialled at children's centres: basing a CIS worker on site for half a week; front-line staff trained to deliver CIS services; staff directing parents to the CIS; CIS staff working with children's centre staff on referrals, and signposting services and surgeries.

The most successful project involved a CIS worker based at a children's centre for half a week, which increased enquiries three-fold during five months.

The report said approaches should be adapted to the specific needs of the community. For example, leaflets and 'signposting' services were not enough on their own to reach families with low literacy levels, or who do not have English as their first language.

Co-author Harriet Mathie said the most successful pilots were those where parents were made aware of the different options available to them and where other professionals were involved.

She said, 'What might happen is that quite often parents would not know about the CIS, so someone from the CIS might join in with clinics at the children's centre or attend community events.'

Kate Warboys, acting managing director of Opportunity Links, said, 'It is clear from the pilot that delivering CIS services through children's centres can work to great effect. With so many delivery points, it's crucial the right information is provided in a consistent and appropriate manner.'

The Final report of CIS pilot project with children's centres is available at www.opp-links.org.uk.

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