Call for more dialogue between children s and housing services

CHILDREN’s and housing services should be talking to each other more, says national charity Shelter and a new report on provision for under-5s in Hackney.

Parents with young children are increasingly asking for housing advice at children’s centres, and housing services should provide more support, according to Hackney’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Commission.

Shelter agrees, with better joined-up work between housing and children’s services a key issue the housing charity has been campaigning on.

Peta Cubberley, Shelter s Regional Children s Coordinator (London & South East), said: “Shelter welcomes the findings in this report, and look forward to working closely with both children’s and housing services to ensure that the recommendations are implemented. This review identifies that housing problems are a major cause for concern for many parents with young children, and has highlighted the need for more advice services. We now have a good opportunity to promote deeper integration of housing advice and support within children’s centres, and to ensure communication and information sharing between all children’s services and housing services is paramount.”

Shelter highlighted the issue during a joint presentation with Hackney’s Overview and Scrutiny team at the Centre for Public Scrutiny s national conference last month.

GPs could also be better involved with Children’s Centres, the report adds, recommending a social marketing campaign to highlight the centres’ role, services, and opportunities for referrals to and from local practitioners and surgeries.

Cllr Geoff Taylor, Chair of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Commission during the review, said: "Integrated service provision should enable an holistic approach to supporting children and families, and greater communication between children s centres and housing services can play a key role in this. Children s centres need to think of themselves as, among other things, places where vital connections can be made and developed."

There are currently 14 children s centres in Hackney, with more on the way, offering parents with children aged under 5 to easy, local access to childcare, which is charged, together with free services including:

ante-natal advice and support for parents and carers

visits to all families in the area within two months of birth

partnership work with community groups to target hard-to-reach families

information and guidance on breastfeeding, hygiene, nutrition and safety

training for parents and carers, including English language tuition, basic skills and parenting classes

benefits advice including maternity benefits

activities to increase the involvement of fathers at the centres

speech, language and specialist support

toy libraries

a child health and fitness programme

Scrutiny Commissions are made up of Councillors from all political parties who investigate issues of local concern. Reviews are evidence-based and non-political.

The Children and Young People Scrutiny Commission considers issues relating to Children Services, Children and Young People’s Social Care, Education and the Learning Trust.

For more information on Scrutiny in Hackney, contact 020 8356 3341, email or visit