Parents and communities should be able to have a greater say in running their local children’s centre, Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said today (24 May 2012).
The government is seeking views on how to encourage groups of parents, families and community members to get involved in the planning and delivery of early education services.
Evidence shows that empowering parents through involving them in the planning and delivery of Sure Start services can lead to better outcomes for families.
The government also invited expressions of interest from groups of parents who are interested in setting up their own community body so that they can bid to run their local children’s centre. The department announced it will procure an organisation to provide advice and guidance to help a number of groups to develop and test their proposals. Local authorities will still have the final say on whether bids are successful.
Speaking at the Daycare Trust’s London Childcare Providers’ Forum, Sarah Teather said:
It is important that children’s centres are at the heart of community life and we are committed to maintaining a strong and effective national network of centres across the country.
I want to make sure they are delivering the best service possible to their local community. That’s why we want to hear views and new ideas on how parents and communities can help run children’s centres. I believe this will give local people more control and influence over the services they use.
Many children’s centres already involve parents and their local community and now we want to build on this to find ways of enabling them to have a stronger voice in how they are run and what they can offer.
The discussion paper on parental involvement was published today ahead of a new right coming into force later this year called the ‘Community right to challenge’.
Notes to editors
Case studies of parent and community involvement.
* Millmead Children’s centre in Margate, Kent is run by a community mutual, commissioned by the local authority. Local parents and families, as well as staff working at the centre, can become members of the Community Mutual for a nominal fee and this enables them to become more involved in deciding how the centre is run. The centre currently has around 30 volunteers contributing in a variety of ways, from assisting in the running of groups, to being involved in service reviews, planning, food production at the allotments, being representatives on interview panels and the action group where their views are heard.
* Westgate Children’s Centre in Morecombe helped to develop an Empowering Parents Group for younger parents, which has been running since 2008. Many parents joining the group are unemployed and often do not have many qualifications or much work experience. The course is now available in eight other centres in Lancashire.
The Department for Education plans to put in place some support a small number of groups to develop proposals to set up their own community body so that they could bid to run their local children’s centre. There will be no direct funding for projects. The support will take the form of advice and guidance to help groups develop and test their proposals. Local authorities will have the final say on whether bids are successful.
The deadline for responses to the children’s centres discussion paper and expressions of interest from prospective community groups is 19 July 2012.
Draft statutory guidance on Sure Start children’s centres, which sets out what local authorities should do when setting up or overseeing the management of children’s centres, is currently out for consultation. The closing date for responses is 1 June.
The Localism Act 2011 has given voluntary and community groups, local authority employees who wish to form a public service mutual, and parish councils the Community Right to Challenge their local authority by expressing an interest in providing services on behalf of the authority. This can include provision of children’s centres. The right to challenge provisions are expected to come into effect on 27 June 2012, subject to parliamentary approval. Draft statutory guidance on the community right to challenge was published by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 21 May 2012.
National evaluation of Sure Start: Empowering parents in Sure Start local programmes 2006.