The government has made £3m available for up to 30 areas to trial payment by results in children’s centres this year.
To qualify for the payments, local authorities and centres will be expected to reach and support the most vulnerable families. The Department for Education is aiming to narrow gaps in child development, raise attainment at the end of the foundation years and improve family health and well-being.
“Children’s centres are where much of this work takes place. We want them to be places where communities come together, parents can support each other and children can develop,” said children and family’s minister Sarah Teather
The announcement could be a significant step towards realising Graham Allen’s vision for early intervention services, outlined in his report published this week. Allen has highlighted payment by results as a way to guarantee outcomes without straining local authority budgets.
Some have cautioned, however, that the pilots must be given enough time to form a realistic picture.
“There’s a need to make sure that we have careful piloting put in place and those pilots need to be allowed to run for a period of time that enables us to gather the evidence we need,” Enver Solomon, director of policy at the Children’s Society, said. “There’s a long timeline on the emergence of evidence of measurable outcomes.”
Family Action chief executive Helen Dent has also welcomed the pilots, but said the system would have to be tailored to the skills set of children’s centre staff.
“We must remember people who are trained to work with children and families are there because they have people skills not because they are number crunchers,” she said.
“The challenge is to find systems for evaluating outcomes that these practitioners can understand and use and which do not take quality time away from the therapeutic and educational work that they are doing in children’s centres with some very disadvantaged and troubled families.”
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