Children’s centres ‘not good enough’

Two children’s centres in Newmarket and Mildenhall must do more to reach more vulnerable families, according to government inspectors.

The Foley House Centre in Newmarket’s Wellington Street and The Larks in Mildenhall are two of three centres run by Suffolk County Council, which are part of a Forest Heath district group. The third centre is in Brandon. An inspection the centres by a team of inspectors from Ofsted judged them to need improvement.

“Although the number of families accessing services has increased significantly since April 2013, the number of teenage mothers, lone, workless and families living in the most deprived areas, fathers and families who speak English as an additional language are not high enough,” said lead inspector Susan Smith in her report

While calling for the centres to reach more people, the report recognised that staff gave good support to those families most in need and made sure vulnerable children were well protected, when contact was made.

It also praised provision for children with additioanl needs and disabilities for whom the Little Stars group it said “provided excellent learning and development opportunities matched to children’s individual needs.”

But it added: “Not all familes who need it currently have access to support from the group. It has significantly increased the number of children and families they are working with since April 2013 but robust systems are not in place to accurately monitor attendance by those families most in need.”

Suffolk County Council has cut £1.5 million from its children’s centres’ budget but Alan Cadzow, the authority’s assistant director for early help and specialist services. insisted that £1.2 million of those savings had been made without cutting staff.

He said the number of families using the district’s children’s centres had increased and a board would now look to draw up an improvement plan based on the recommendations in the Ofsted report.