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The value for money of children’s centre services: Evaluation of children’s centres in England (ECCE) Strand 5

Research report

Following on from the Sure Start initiative of 1998, Children’s Centres were launched in 2002 with the aim of giving disadvantaged children the “best possible start in life.” The centres provide integrated multi-agency services at a single point of access for families with young children including childcare and early education programmes, health services, parenting classes and specialised family support services.

The Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England (ECCE) is a six year study commissioned by the Department for Education and undertaken by NatCen Social Research, the University of Oxford and Frontier Economics. The aim of ECCE is to provide an in-depth understanding of Children’s Centre services, including their effectiveness in relation to different management and delivery approaches and their cost. The evaluation studies centres located in the 30 percent most deprived areas and the key elements are organised as five strands:

• strand 1: survey of Children’s Centres leaders;
• strand 2: longitudinal survey of families using Children’s Centres;
• strand 3: investigation of Children’s Centres service delivery and reach;
• strand 4: impact analysis of the effects of Children’s Centres on child, mother and family outcomes; and
• strand 5: value for money (cost benefit and cost effectiveness) analysis.

Ten reports have been published as part of the evaluation. This report presents the last output of the evaluation and considers the potential value for money of Children’s Centres. It draws on cost data collected from 24 centres and from an analysis of the associations between centre use and improved child and family outcomes. It also uses existing evidence on the links between child and family outcomes when a child is aged three and later life outcomes and on the monetary value of outcomes. As the original intention of this strand to estimate the overall value for money of centres proved infeasible, the value for money has instead been assessed for individual types of services delivered within centres.