Latest Public Sector News

06.03.12

Sure Start refocus to improve outcomes for children

Councils will be paid for improving parenting skills and encouraging more mothers to breastfeed in a new trial. The scheme aims to improve outcomes for children through services offered by children’s centres against a range of central Government targets.

Councils are urged to increase children’s readiness for school and increase the take-up of free nursery places for disadvantaged two and three-year olds. If the scheme is successful, it could be rolled out acrossEngland.

Children’s minister Sarah Teather announced the need to refocus Sure Start children’s centres to helping disadvantaged families. A consultation has been launched on changes to the statutory guidance for these centres, which will be redefined as places to direct users towards certain services rather than providing them in-house.

A children’s centre may simply “provide advice and assistance on gaining access to services elsewhere” under the changes. Councils are also being urged to look at a wider range of possible providers when commissioning the services.

Teather said: “We understand that local authorities are facing difficult decisions. Our revised guidance makes clear that they should concentrate on improving outcomes for some of the most disadvantaged young people and families.

“It is about the quality of services to support children and families, particularly the most disadvantaged.

“I want our payment-by-results approach to incentivise local authorities to reduce inequality. It will reward local areas for targeting those who will benefit most from the excellent support children’s centres can offer.”

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