Councils prioritise ‘neediest’ centres

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Children’s centres in the most deprived areas have experienced less severe cuts than those in other parts of the country, an analysis has revealed.

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Children's centres that have not experienced cuts do the best at improving the lives of children and families

Children’s centres in the most deprived areas have experienced less severe cuts than those in other parts of the country, an analysis has revealed.

A report by the Department for Education-commissioned Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England suggests that some local authorities are attempting to shore up centres by prioritising funding for those providing support for the neediest families.

The study is a follow-up to a wider impact analysis by the same research team (‘Children’s centres improve parenting for poor families’, NW online, 18 December). The study on resources found that families registered at centres that reported little or no cuts and were adding new services had greater improvements in ‘family functioning’ than those at centres that were experiencing cuts.

The research is based on a sample of 117 Phase 1 and Phase 2 children’s centres and summarises some of the changes to funding, resources and services from questionnaires completed by centre staff.

The data related to changes in budgets across the financial years 2012 to 2013, so does not take account of major cuts to children’s centres that are continuing across the country.

Commenting on the findings, Pam Sammons, Professor of Education at the University of Oxford and report co-author, said, ‘We found that families linked with a children’s centre that had increased budgets, services and staffing showed significantly better outcomes than those linked with centres that were experiencing budget cuts and reducing services and staffing.

‘Many centres were reorganising their services in response to such cuts. This report looks further at the resourcing and organisation of children’s centres included in the evaluation.’

She added, ‘We are aware that many centres have experienced further significant budget cuts.’

eva-lloydAs Professor Eva Lloyd, (pictured right), points out, the conclusion of the findings echoes her own research into early education and care and poverty.

‘We emphasised that, by itself, even good-quality provision does not “inoculate” against the adverse effects of poverty on young children and their families.

'Instead, multiple approaches are urgently needed to reduce poverty, including income poverty, to eliminate its pernicious impact on children’s educational achievements, health, nutrition, housing and access to public services.

'We can only hope that this message is heard by the inquiry into early years intervention and life chances.’

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