Chapter 11: Combatting the effects of poverty on the outcomes of young children and their families: the role of Children’s Centres

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Chapter authors

  • Kathy Sylva
  • Lesley Curtis

Chapter overview

This chapter explores the role of Children’s Centres (CCs) in serving the needs of disadvantaged children and families. The chapter first considers research on the way that poverty, minority status and family mental health are powerful influences on the life chances of children, pre- birth to old age (Eisenstadt and Oppenheim, 2019). All four nations within the UK tell a similar story, yet each has pursued different policies to combat the adverse effects of disadvantage. Children’s Centres are an exception, however, because all four nations have instituted some form of neighbourhood centres in poor communities to enhance the life chances of those who live in them (See Eisenstadt, 2011; Belsky et al., 2008). Next, the chapter provides a brief description of Children’s Centre policy in England, from the early 21st century, including a case study detailing the aims, staffing, and activities of Everton Children’s Centre, Liverpool. The chapter then focuses on the national picture in England, reporting the large scale national evaluation of the Sure Start Children’s Centre programme (Sammons et al, 2015a; Sylva et al., 2014), which demonstrated the beneficial effects for families. The chapter closes with discussion of recent research on the decline of Children’s Centres in England, and key issues for the future.

Chapter objectives

  • To set out the research into the effects of disadvantage on children’s life chances and outcomes.
  • To describe current CC practice in work with disadvantaged families.
  • To consider research into the benefits of CCs and the impact of closures of such provision.

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