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The Government want to retain a vibrant network of high-quality children's centres which are accessible to all families but focused on those in greatest need.
The Department of Health and the Department for Education published their joint vision for services from pregnancy through to age five in ‘Families in the Foundation Years’ earlier this year. As part of this joint vision, the Government have also committed to doubling the number of places on the family nurse partnership (FNP) programme by 2015. This is a preventive programme for vulnerable young first time mothers and their babies. It offers intensive and structured home visiting, delivered by specially trained nurses, from early pregnancy until the child is two. FNP is either connected to or delivered from Sure Start children's centres in many areas and family nurses encourage clients to use children's centre services.
DFE is working with departmental colleagues on the Health Visiting community development training programme to look at sharing resources more widely and explore joint training opportunities for health visitors and children centre staff.
DFE, working closely with the Department, will set out ways in which children's centres should focus on families in greatest need in the Sure Start children's centres statutory guidance, which will be sent out for consultation in the new year. Local commissioners of health services, as well as local authorities and other partners, must have regard to the statutory guidance.
Payment by results approaches are also being developed to strengthen the focus on the core purpose of children's centres: to improve child development and school readiness (including health and well-being) amongst young children and to reduce inequalities. This includes identifying, reaching and supporting the most disadvantaged families to improve their parenting aspirations and skills and to promote health and well-being.
The NHS Operating Framework 2012-13 includes the requirement that strategic health authority and primary care trust clusters should work together to deliver the number of health visitors required as part of the Government commitment to increase the number by 4,200 by April 2015, as set out in the ‘Health Visiting Implementation Plan 2011-15—A Call to Action’ to deliver the Healthy Child Programme, provide greater support to families and develop local community capacity in support of children and families working closely with Sure Start children's centres and other local services.