Much of our work is in support of children's centres and past projects have included early vision-setting, consultations, policy development, training for children's centre staff, national studies and evaluations. Our study Outreach to Children and Families was used by the CWDC in developing training for outreach workers.
The evidence suggests that children's centres will achieve the best results where services are planned around the needs of individual families and are based on careful needs analysis, holistic services, all supported by good data systems. Exemplars such as H.O.P.E. and the Maden Children and Community Centre typify this approach.
Wishes - Tackling Inequality, Creating Opportunity
Wishes is a ground-breaking project to provide supported steps to training and employment for parents of young children who want to improve their basic skills and employment opportunities, particularly those parents who would like to gain a Level 2 qualification.
Designed by Capacity in 2005 for Thurrock children's centres, Wishes has been highly successful in engaging parents who have had no contact with formal learning since leaving schools and in supporting them in their aspirations and towards employment.
In 2007 Wishes won an Opening Doors to Adult Learners Award, for outstanding innovation, creativity and commitment to learning. It has since been rolled out in Southampton, Richmond Upon Thames and Hammersmith and Fulham.
Ask The Family
Ask The Family is both a needs analysis and a planning tool, designed to help tailor children's centre services to the needs of individual parents and their families. It was designed with and for the Maden Children and Community Centre in Rossendale, to enable them to measure outcomes for individuals and groups and assess impact.
It involves a two-stage registration process in which parents are encouraged to set objectives for themselves and their children; services and activities are selected on the basis of their relevance and each parent is mentored by a member of staff or volunteer. Progress is reviewed at regular intervals, with the setting of new objectives or next steps as needed.
Following training and an initial pilot, You and Your Family is routinely used by children's centre staff to identify families for targeted early support.
The framework and methodology is now being used by children's centres in Preston. The information families provide is monitored to ensure that family action plans are relevant and is also used to plan family support. The manager of the children's centres involved describes it as an "invaluable" resource.
With funding pressures and ever increasing workloads, it can be hard to find the time to undertake data tracking and analysis. However, data tracking can provide invaluable information about how services are working and the success of engagement strategies.
In 2012 Capacity undertook an analysis of area and children's centre data for East Lindsey Children's Centres to examine how effectively centres were involving target families. The work focused on child poverty within East Lindsey Children's centres, tracking systems and current provision to address poverty within the children's centres.
In 2013 we are undertaking data profiling for children's centres in Thurrock, including a "look-up" tool to enable them to see, at a glance, participation patterns in each small area (LSOA) and for different types of families.