The earliest years of a child’s life, when they are 0-5 years old, are a crucially important stage of development and have a major impact on their future outcomes. Helping children at this early stage is a core element of our work to support vulnerable children across the country.

We run around 40 children’s centres in England that support children under five years old and their families, providing a ranges of services including high quality childcare, family support, debt and benefit advice and parenting programmes.

Supporting disadvantaged families to access children’s centres

There is particular need to support children from disadvantaged families as their development can quickly fall behind other children's, even in their earliest years.

Our Breaking Barriers report explores the barriers disadvantaged families face to accessing children's centres and how these can be overcome. It also examines the funding cuts that early intervention services, including children's centres, are facing and maps the cuts to the early intervention grant at a local level.

One of the main barriers facing children's centres is the provision of live birth data which supports centres to get in touch with new families in their area. Our report The Right Start found that almost half of local authorities are not providing live birth data to their centres and our report calls on the government to make it a clear legal duty for local authorities and health services to share live birth data with children’s centres to ensure families know about and can access the vital services available and help children get the best possible start in life.

Policy and lobbying work

Our policy team works to lobby and influence decision makers to ensure better understanding of children’s needs in early childhood, and improve support services for families with children in their early years, particularly the most disadvantaged.

Our main lobbying priorities are:

  • developing children’s centres to become community hubs for early childhood services, and to improve the reach of services to the most disadvantaged families
  • ensuring that other key services engage with the most disadvantaged and hardest-to-reach families with young children
  • making high-quality childcare affordable and accessible to all families by ensuring they are given sufficient support with their childcare costs.

Learn more and take action