£6m Day Centres Will Be Boost for All The Family

Two new family centres, aimed at giving children the best start in life and parents a second chance at education, are being created at a cost of £6m. The sites have not been agreed but one will serve the communities of Butetown and Grangetown and the other will cater for Adamsdown, Splott and Tremorfa in Cardiff.

A further two Integrated Children’s Centres (ICC) are at the discussion stage, but could open in 2009. It will bring the total of ICCs in the capital to five. The expansion of the centres, which offer nursery and daycare places, after-school and holiday clubs as well as workshops, support groups and adult learning classes, is part of an ongoing roll-out nationally.

Youngsters from as young as eight weeks can take their daycare place, which is paid for. Nursery children are entitled to a free breakfast under the Welsh Assembly Government Scheme and a free part-time place the term after their third birthday but the extra hours they attend have to be paid for or subsidised.

The concept emerged in the last 10 years having been tried and tested in England. Combining health and social care and education to support families and young children in socially deprived areas, they proved to get results.

The success of one of Wales’ flagship centres, the Ely and Caerau Children’s Centre, which opened in February last year, has ensured more communities will benefit.

Kathryn Leighfield, deputy head of the centre based at Michaelston Community College, said: ‘It has just gone from strength to strength. The secret to our success is working with other agencies to create a tailor-made approach for every family. It is always difficult to explain what an integrated centre is as people think it is a daycare or nursery or a family or community centre but we aim to be everything we need to be to the families that come here.’

The centre in Ely also houses offices of the agencies it works with, from Sure Start, a government programme offering childcare, health and family support. Special education needs and speech and language experts can assess children and Parentplus representatives can offer advice or training in parenting workshops. Adult education courses are also on offer and parents who sign up for courses get a subsidy for daycare costs.

Headteacher Glenda Dudley summed up: ‘Our aim is to improve health, education and the emotional development of young children and families through an integrated approach. We have a range of services to engage young children all under one roof and we offer flexible systems of care. We are operating a centre that supports parents, as parents, so that they are able to fulfil their aspirations towards employment, education and training.’

Chris Jones, Cardiff council’s chief schools officer, said following on from the success of the flagship centre, there was a real willingness for more communities to benefit from a centre like this.

It is most likely that the four new centres, which have been approved by Cardiff council, will be based on an existing school site in line with the intention to reduce surplus capacity but also to improve a sense of community and see youngsters making friends at nursery or daycare that they keep through primary and then on to secondary school.

Mr Jones said: ‘The greatest benefit for families is that is that these centres offer them a one-stop shop in terms of care, education and health support. They are targeted to meet the greatest need and while they are there for all parents, experience shows they provided support for single parents especially.’