There are a total of 83 designated Sure Start Children’s Centres in Merseyside reaching over 66,800 children under five and their families. Reach area defines those children and families with the opportunity to access children’s centres. Merseyside is assumed to refer to five local authorities: Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, St. Helen’s and Knowsley.
The Department’s guidance to children’s centre leaders and local authorities sets an expectation that they should evaluate the effectiveness of children’s centre services.
The National Evaluation of Sure Start started in 2001 and last reported in 2008. Evidence from the last report showed improvements in outcomes for children and families living in areas served by children’s centres, including children’s behaviour and parents’ support for their children’s learning at home. The benefits appeared to apply to all social groups, including those facing most disadvantage. Awareness and satisfaction of children’s centres is high. The TNS Research Report (2008) shows; 78 per cent. of all respondents knew about their local centre; 74 per cent. were familiar with the term ‘Children’s Centre’; and levels of satisfaction were very high with 92 per cent. of all users saying they were satisfied (68 per cent. were very satisfied). The Department has recently commissioned an evaluation of the implementation and impact of the full range of children's centres, with a first report expected in late 2010.