Use children's centres for mandatory birth registration, says charity

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A new report calls for more children’s centres, particularly those in areas with ‘high concentrations’ of vulnerable families, to register births.

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Children's charity Barnardo's says placing birth registration services within children's centres benefits settings and families

Barnardo's, the charity behind the report, wants local and central Government to work with children’s centres to implement birth registration in children’s centres over the next five years.

It believes that using children’s centres for mandatory birth registrations would provide an opportunity for professionals to connect with and identify what support vulnerable families need early on.

The children's charity also says that such a service would help centres to attract these families and make life easier for them.

The recommendation is outlined in Barnardo’s’ new report, ‘Fulfilling their potential: the win win case for birth registrations in children’s centres’.

It follows an announcement by childcare minister Sam Gyimah that the Government is to launch a consultation on the future of children’s centres this autumn.

The charity’s report draws upon the charity’s first-hand experience, findings from a survey of all registry offices in England, and interviews with staff in two of Barnardo’s’ children’s centres that offer birth registration.

At present only 20 local authorities across the country offer birth registration at children’s centres.

Despite this, eight out of ten registrars currently registering births in children’s centres describe the service as ‘extremely positive’ or ‘positive’, and of those, 100 per cent said they would recommend it.

Other benefits of offering a birth registration service within children’s centres, according to the report, include:

  • Accessibility – new parents, particularly disadvantaged families, who registered their babies at their local children’s centres rather than the central register office, found it quicker, easy to get to, more supportive and less stressful;
  • Reach, engagement and re-engagement – children’s centres offering the service connected with and engaged more families;
  • Data collection – the birth registration services can help local agencies to share information and target easier support for vulnerable families in their area;
  • Safeguarding – centre staff are able to identify support needs and concerns early on and act accordingly;
  • Engaging fathers – birth registration services provide a unique opportunity to engage with dads directly.

The report goes on to say that local authorities need to see the birth registration service as more than just a requirement – another duty to be met – but as a key means to support children’s centre engagement with families.

It concludes by making a number of recommendations to address the ‘practical issues’ of expanding the practice, as well as ‘clear the communication gap’ between local authorities and registrars.

Among its recommendations, the charity suggests local authorities meet with their respective registrars to undertake feasibility studies in their areas, and the Department for Education (DfE) allocate a small start-up fund to incentivise and support the practice with local commissioners.

It also recommends that the DfE work with the Home Office to raise awareness of the practice and establishment of a national birth registration pilot study. This was a recommendation of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sure Start Children’s Centres.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said, ‘In the first six weeks of a baby’s life, families need more support than ever. Registering babies’ births at their local children’s centres means parents can find out what’s on offer that can support them further.

‘Barnardo’s registration service is convenient and welcoming, and benefits families and the professionals who offer support to them. It’s popular with registrars and with parents. We would like to see it more widely available to help children and their families fulfil their potential.’

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said, ‘We pioneered the registration of births at children's centres, starting with Benchill, more than ten years ago, and now register births at a number of different children's centres across the city.  There are clear benefits in taking this service out into the community and in fact around half of all births in the city are now registered in this way, complementing the more traditional service we also offer at our main register office.’

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