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Sure Start Children's Centres

Children's centres provide a variety of advice and support for parents and carers. Their services are available to you from pregnancy right through to when your child goes into reception class at primary school.

How children's centres can help you

Children’s centres bring together all the different support agencies to offer a wide range of services to meet you and your child’s needs, all in one place.

They’re somewhere your child can make friends and learn as they play. You can get professional advice on health and family matters, learn about training and job opportunities or just socialise with other people.

There are more than 3,000 children’s centres in England - by 2010 there will be 3,500 so that every community is served by one.

Services children's centres must offer

Children’s centres are developed in line with the needs of the local community so no one children’s centre is the same. However, there is a core set of services they must provide:

  • child and family health services, ranging from health visitors to breastfeeding support
  • most centres offer high quality childcare and early learning - those that don’t can help advise on local childcare options
  • advice on parenting, local childcare options and access to specialist services for families like speech therapy, healthy eating advice or help with managing money 
  • help for you to find work or training opportunities, using links to local Jobcentre Plus offices and training providers

Other services you might be offered

The services available to you will depend on your local area. At many children's centres you can:

  • see a dentist, dietician or physiotherapist
  • visit the ‘stop smoking’ clinic
  • get faster access to expert advice, support and short-term breaks if your child has learning difficulties or disabilities
  • talk to Citizens Advice
  • take parenting classes
  • improve your English if it is not your first language - with someone from your own culture

Finding your local children's centre

You can locate your nearest Sure Start Children’s Centre by contacting your local Family Information Service on 08002 346 346. You can also locate them by using the 'Find schools, childcare services and Sure Start Children's Centres' search tool. 

Will you have to pay?

Children’s centres are open to all children and parents and many of the services are free, for example access to midwives and health visitors. You will have to pay for childcare services but there is support through:

  • the free early learning entitlement for three and four year olds
  • tax credits for those who are eligible for help

You may also have to pay a small charge for some activities like toddler groups and baby massage.

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