All Party Parliamentary Group recommendations for Sure Start Children's Centres

MPs and peers are calling on the next government to implement a five-point improvement plan to boost the support children’s centres can offer families.

More children's centres should allow parents to register births at them, MPs say

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sure Start Children’s Centres’ pre-election report says reform is needed as centres continue to face increased demand from families and pressure on their resources.
It calls for improvements in information sharing to address the challenge centres face accessing data from across health and social care. 

A reluctance among councils to give centres local birth data is a particular concern. The group points to latest data from The Children’s Society that shows half of councils are not sharing live birth data with centres. 

According to the society, just 15 per cent of councils currently register births at children’s centres.

Centres should also be at “the heart of local service provision”, says the group, which wants to see centres used more as children and family hubs offering support to families of teenagers as well as toddlers and babies, and as recommended by 4Children. 

The next government should also launch a national birth registration pilot at centres. If successful, the APPG wants to see this rolled out nationwide. Its report says: “Delivering birth registration services more widely across the network would play an important role in enabling children’s centres to extend their reach and help more families.”

The way centres are assessed also needs to be overhauled, with integrated inspections by both Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission to take into account the breadth of health, family support and education services at centres. Ofsted confirmed last month it is in talks with the Department for Education about revamping the way centres are inspected. 

It also calls on the next government to make centres more “appealing places for practitioners to build careers”. The APPG wants to see clearer career paths and qualifications for centre workers.

APPG chair Lyn Brown MP said: “Children’s centres are vital to supporting and transforming the life chances of children and families across the country. We are calling on the next government to help centres fulfil their huge potential. 
“This report is a Sure Start blueprint for the next government, ready and waiting to be implemented.
“I am thrilled that we have all-party agreement on the way forward. From sharing live birth data to expanding children’s centres into holistic family hubs, the next government can look at this plan to help make a real difference for families, through a network of centres already at their disposal.” 

Helen Berresford, director of public affairs at the charity 4Children, which provides the secretariat for the APPG, said: “This report gives the next government good food for thought on what the future of Sure Start children’s centres could look like.
“Any new government should see Sure Start for what it is – one of the best ways we can support children and families, rooted in the heart of their communities.” 
Last month, the Labour Party unveiled plans to boost children’s centres’ role in childcare provision. It wants to see 50,000 new childcare places at centres, citing latest estimates from 4Children that more than 1,000 centres have space for more childcare.