Although most of the children’s centres we have worked with are well-regarded by the parents who access them, our research showed that only 1 in 10 of the families most in need of support actually use them. Rethinking how we deliver early years services is therefore crucial to ensure families do not miss out on vital support that can help them.
Early years budgets were being slashed by 20-30% before the Transforming Early Years programme began, so in order to not deliver less they had to rethink how they delivered.
We have worked with teams made up of frontline professionals, local councillors, parents and families, and local third sector organisation to help them to come to a real and new understanding of the challenges faced in their local areas. This has allowed radically better and more affordable solutions to be developed and the sites have made great progress with successfully implementing these new solutions. The programme has demonstrated:
- new service models are on average 25% cheaper than traditional models
- they reach on average 120% more families, including targeting those most in need of support
- they will realise unit cost savings of between 30 - 81%
Reading Borough Council have already demonstrated savings of £34,000 in the Whitley Children's Centre budget (34%), volunteers have contributed 380 hours in 6 months and the number of children reached by the Children's Centre has increased from 31% to 55% in that time. Reading are now replicating the approach across all of their children's centres, showing potential for much greater savings, higher performance and a close relationship with families and communities.
Locality teams have revealed some profound truths about their services and the communities they seek to serve. These include:
- the realisation that although they view their services as successful because the families they do reach are enthusiastic about them, they are not engaging with many families most in need of help
- more focus is needed on creating ‘non judgemental’ spaces that these families feel comfortable in, which is often about where they are located as well as the need for more peer to peer support work
- engagement with families should be helped by creating early years services that are owned and delivered by local parents, requiring changes in governance structures. Creating children’s centres with a cooperative or mutual structure that puts users at the heart of the service
The service models they have developed will make a real difference to their communities. If you're interested in getting an overview of the programme, including a summary of the findings, click here. If you're interested in deeper learning then read our learning report, which includes comprehensive figures from our external evaluation.You can also access case studies from each of the sites, by clicking the links to the right hand side.