Coronavirus, early years and childcare

To prevent the spread of coronavirus and in order to follow government guidelines, families should only attend a Children’s centre if they have been invited to do so.

Childcare during coronavirus

If you are a key worker or you have a vulnerable child, you can apply for childcare 

The department for education has clear information for childcare settings that remain open for key workers and vulnerable children.

Children's centres virtual activities

We have a range of virtual sessions and support around early speech, language and communication. You can join us via zoom or 121 phone calls. We also have information on how you can get your Healthy Start vitamins and vouchers, Bookstart baby packs and activities you can do while staying safe at home.

Training sessions 

We will be resuming some first aid courses and adult education courses in the Autumn term 2020.

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Our work

Below are all of the good work and information that we, the Integrated Early Years Service, have been doing within the borough.

If you would like to find out more about the services we run, please contact The Family Information Service on 020 7364 6495 or email us at


1. Animals bring joy to parents and children at Meath Gardens

2. Children’s centre group pays a visit to the Museum of London

3. South East Mini Cluster Fun Day Goes Ahead Despite Rain

4. Tower Hamlets kids enjoy sports at Meath Gardens Park

5. Celebrating success with parents and carers in Tower Hamlets

6. Childcare course organised by IEYS at George Green Secondary school

7. Tower Hamlets Together Partnership Working

8. Understanding how the children’s centre offer is delivered

9. New developments for children’s centre services

10. Healthy Child Clinics - A New Service in Children’s Centres 


Animals bring joy to parents and children at Meath Gardens

Parents and children were not at Meath Gardens Children’s Centre for their usual General Play and Stay session, as they had some animal visitors from the Spitalfields City Farm.

Miniature donkeys, guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens and other animals occupied a section of the outside play area at Meath Gardens Children’s Centre. Babies, toddlers and children up to the age of four, were only too happy to interact with them.

Spitafields city farm

This is the third year that Spitalfields City Farm has been coming down to Meath Gardens Children’s Centre and giving parents and children the chance to spend some time around animals. 

Jenny Bettenson is the Farmland Coordinator at Spitalfields City Farm and said:

“We are here to showcase what Spitalfields City Farm has to offer and this visit to Meath Gardens Children’s Centres gives us the opportunity to educate adults and children about animal welfare and encourage positive experiences with animals.

 “Today parents have been seeking advice about getting or looking after a pet.”

Lucy Cox, 26, usually comes with her 16 month son Logan to Meath Gardens Children’s Centre, to attend the stay and play sessions a few times a week. Lucy commented:

“Logan loves animals and he is already accustomed to visiting a farm.

 “Meath Gardens Children’s Centre is a safe place for Logan to learn and play. I actually think that it is the best children’s centre, because the staff members are so pleasant, it’s clean and spacious.”

Today is the second out of three visits from Spitalfields City Farm with the last one scheduled for Wednesday 28 August.


  Children’s centre group pays a visit to the Museum of London

Parents, children and staff members swapped the Isle of Dogs children’s centre for a visit to the Museum of London in Docklands.

The tour of the museum began on the top floor where the group of visitors entered a historical warehouse setting. The first item on display was a small cargo boat which certainly captured the fascination of some of the children. Other exhibits included signs suspended from the ceiling of locations around the world noted for trade, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Rio and San Antonio.

It looked as though there might be a real interest in boats amongst the children, as a few of them demonstrated their eagerness to look at the model Falmouth East India Ship which was launched in 1752 at the John Perry & Co’s Yard at Blackwall.

IOD Museum of London

Next on the visit itinerary was the Mudlark’s Children’s Gallery, which combines the history of the docks with a children’s play adventure area.  In this section of the museum, babies, toddlers and children under the age of five are encouraged to engage in soft play, use water to guide boats across a mock up River Thames and pretend that they are loading and offloading goods.

Trips to Millwall Park, Greenwich Park and Maritime Museum, are just some of the child friendly activities previously organised by the Isle of Dogs Children’s Centre in order to enhance a family’s understanding of what they can do with their children.

Xuan Tran, 41, lives in Crossharbour and attends the Isle of Dogs Children’s Centre with her 10 month old son and her two year old daughter, Alice.  Xuan really enjoyed coming down to the Museum of London on a group trip because Alice has a lot of energy and runs around a lot. Xuan said:

“It’s hard for me to get out with the kids so this type of activity is great in terms of me getting support from children’s centre staff.

“This visit to the Museum of London has given me a little breather and I am able to focus on looking after my 10 month old son.”

Once the Mudlark’s Children’s Gallery session was over, it was time for everyone to bid farewell to the Museum of London.


South East Mini Cluster Fun Day Goes Ahead Despite Rain

Staff, parents, carers and children refused to let persistent rain dampen their spirits yesterday, as the annual outdoor South East Mini Cluster Fun Day was simply moved into the Isle of Dogs Children’s Centre.

Babies and children engaged in creative play, face and body painting, dancing and general fun while their parents or carers looked on.

Adwoa Prempeh, 35, has recently moved to the Poplar area and attends the Chrisp Street Children’s Centre with her three year old son and 22 month old daughter.

Adwoa said:

“My kids are having a lot of fun and enjoying a lovely environment today.

“There is a lot of free space at the Isle of Dogs children’s centre so the children can really move around.”

SE mini cluster Fun Day 14082019

Children at the Fun Day were treated to some story telling by Nerin Emirali who wrote and performed ‘Little boat lost on the River Thames’.  She bought her performance to life by using hand held puppets, music and encouraging all present to join in with various hand actions.


Victoria Smith, Early Years Programme Manager (under 5s) at the Museum of London, joined Nerin at the South East Mini Cluster Fun Day and said:

“We do a lot of outreach work at the Museum of London and we were approached by the Isle of Dogs Children’s Centre a few months ago to come to the Fun Day.

 “Staff at the Museum of London would definitely like to do more events like this, have the opportunities to meet more families and connect with people who don’t know about the museum.”

The Fun Day was brought to a close after the story telling segment and then it was time for the children to tuck into the lunch that was prepared by the children’s centre.


Sue Nolan, Isle of Dogs Children’s Centre lead commented:

“There was a lot of rain today, but we still managed to have a lovely day.  We organised lots of activities for the families


Tower Hamlets kids enjoy sports at Meath Gardens Park

Close to a hundred Tower Hamlets children from little babies to 11 year olds and their adults, went down to Meath Gardens Park on Wednesday afternoon to engage in some physical activities.

The annual Play in the park event is organised by the children’s centres in the North West mini cluster (Mowlem, Meath Gardens and Collingwood) and forms part of the Council’s summer activities programme.

The main focus of Play in the Park is to promote physical health and wellbeing and encourage more play to strengthen and support children’s body development.

Children were able to participate in activities that would normally be found at a school sports day including, relay, sack race and also use a snakes and ladders mat, hula hoops and soft balls.

Jay Sidhu, Interim Area Early Intervention Lead, based at Meath Gardens CC said:

“The numbers of families present at the event made it clear that people really appreciated having the chance to enjoy an outdoor space and get fit at the same time.

“Play in the Park has always been a popular event and we are keen to continue using it to promote health and fitness as well as physical and mental health and wellbeing for both children and adults.”

Look out for the Play in the Park event for next year


Celebrating success with parents and carers in Tower Hamlets

Childrens Centre Awards -26

A record crowd has attended this years’ Integrated Early Years Celebration Event. 

Held on Thursday 5 July at the Ecology Pavilion in Mile End on a beautiful summer’s day, more than 200 people gathered to enjoy an event showcasing the sterling efforts made by parents and carers in support of the Integrated Early Years’ Service.

Achievement awards were handed out to parents and carers who took part in the full range of services that the borough offers, including parenting programmes, adult education courses, volunteering and the Parent’s Forum.

Over twenty partner agencies were also at the event highlighting the shared work that goes on, bringing together services for the benefit of parents and carers.

Childrens Centre Awards -22 mayor John Biggs

(Photo left to right: Mayor John Biggs, Christine McInnes (Divisional Director for Education & Partnerships), Pauline Hoare (Head of Integrated Early Years Service), Rujina Begum (Parent Volunteer) & Syeda Pasha - standing - (Parenting and Adult Education Coordinator)

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs said:

“It’s wonderful to see the hard work and dedication of parents and carers recognised. They play a crucial role in helping children and families achieve their goals and also make a real difference in our local community.  I am delighted to be here to celebrate with you.”

Guest speakers included the cabinet member for work and economic development, Councillor Motin Uz-Zaman and Christine McInnes, the Divisional Director of Education and Partnership at Tower Hamlets council.

Over the last year, over 1000 parents have completed a parenting or adult education course, volunteered or contributed in the Parent’s Forum to help shape the service.

Many parents progress onto higher level ESOL/education once they complete courses at children’s centres and many do gain employment after volunteering at children’s centres.


Childrens Centre Awards -32

Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman said:

“I am delighted to see so many families gathered today. It’s great that parents have the opportunity to take small steps to help them move closer to the labour market.”

Parenting courses can help parents increase in confidence and improve their child’s behaviour. Adult education courses give parents skills and knowledge which can help them into employment.

Children’s centres increasingly rely on the dedication and time of volunteers as the success of the centres mean even greater numbers of families are coming along to find out what they have to offer.  In the budget last year we invested an extra £555k into ESOL classes..

Rujina Begum, a parent volunteer shared how her experience with her local children’s centre had helped her. She said:

“The support of staff has helped me take small steps towards growing in confidence and be more focussed with my career.”

Other guests included; Ellie Kershaw, Tackling Poverty Programme Manager, Stephen Hanshaw, Job Centre Plus Borough Relationship Manager for Tower Hamlets, Hackney and City of London, Humayun Kabir, Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities Manager, Parental Engagement Team. 


Childcare Course organised at George Green Secondary school 

EL2+ (John Smith CC)

Autumn Term 2017

The Integrated Early Years Service (IEYS) has successfully partnered up with George Green Secondary School (GGSS) and Newtec Training (NT) to deliver an accredited Level 2 Childcare Course in Isle of Dogs. The rationale to deliver the course in GGSS was following a joint meeting with the local schools and children centres in Isle of Dogs where a need was identified for accredited training for families with children who were not typically travelling to outside of Isle of Dogs.

GGSS was identified as the most central location with access to good resources and facilities at which there is also a good relationship between St Luke’s, Arnhem Wharf, Cubitt Town and Isle of Dogs Children Centre.  Following on from this IEYS brokered a partnership agreement with NT to deliver a course at GGSS. The course would be offered for free as long as the learners met a set of criteria of being on an out of work benefit and being a resident of the UK for 3 years or more. IEYS added additional criteria to ensure residents lived in LBTH and had a child between 0-11 and as part of the agreement it was set that 60% of the course should reflect this.  

Following a successful publicity and marketing drive, assessments were held on 22 and 29 September 2017 following which 17 learners were successfully assessed and enrolled onto the course. Since the start of the course 2 have withdrawn due to other commitments and we have 15 learners enrolled including two fathers. The class has 9 learners who have a child 0-11.

In addition due to the success of the course there has been a huge interest by other parents who are looking to sign up for the course, we are in plans to set a progressive course for the current cohort for next term and also put on another course for another cohort from next term.


Children’s Centre offer for Families with Children aged 5 to 11

2 Chrisp street CC med

The Integrated Early Years’ Service (IEYS) brings together the Early Years’ Service, Local Authority Day Care and Children Centres into one line management structure. 

The vison of the Integrated Early Years’ Service is for every child in Tower Hamlets to have the best possible start in life, through reducing inequalities and improving quality of life. Our service aims to support children and their families to be safe and happy, improving lifelong health and wellbeing.

Children’s centres have always worked with the older siblings of the 5 year olds referred to the service.  Throughout the Children’s centres consultation, families expressed a desire for our service to extend the offer to more families with children 5-11 years of age, not just those with younger siblings.

Since January 2018, all children’s centres across the London Borough of Tower Hamlets have been providing services for families with children aged between 5 -11 years of age.

As an early intervention service who provide short to medium term intervention, we work with a family for as long as is helpful, our broad guidelines are that we will work with a Tier 1 case for up to 6 weeks, a tier 2 case for 3-6 months, and borderline 2/3 cases for 6-9 months.

All referrals by schools and children social care should go through the Early Help Hub.  Self-referrals and referrals from other public services such as the health visiting service should be made directly to

Tower Hamlets Together Partnership Working

One place, one time – making every contact count

Tower Hamlets’ children’s centres bring healthcare and early years’ education together under one roof. This enables the integrated partnership working between the IEYS and Tower Hamlets Together have a significant impact on children’s future educational outcomes and life course chances. 

The results of this integrated approach can already be seen in the Early Years’ Foundation Stage Profile EYFSP which reveals a marked improvement in the percentage of Tower Hamlets’ children achieving a good level of development – up from 69% in 2016-17 to 69.4 % in 2017-18. 

By co-delivering services through children’s centres, IEYS and THT provide parents with a fullest possible range of support, including antenatal and postnatal midwifery appointments, a health review of babies at eight to twelve months, advice on topics such as weaning, sleep and treating minor ailments, Healthy Child clinics and much more.  It also facilitates case co-ordination meetings between professionals and reduces the time parents have to spend describing their needs to a range of different service providers.

Parents find it easier to access specialist services and feel confident in attending children’s centres for this as they are already familiar with staff through the universal offer provided.

Those children registered to a children’s centre can be referred quickly if any issues such as speech and language delay or family support are picked up.

Word-of-mouth recommendation and referrals by health visitors, ensures the take-up of places by parents is increasing. Children’s centres believe that the partnership approach is crucial for everyone involved, especially the families, to achieve the best outcomes for children living in Tower Hamlets.

A recent case study involving the support given to Tara (name changed) and his parents by health visitors and a family support worker at Ocean Children’s Centre illustrates the importance of picking up and addressing developmental issues at an early stage.   This early intervention approach happens before early help services are needed and provides a solid foundation for future development for the child.  This kind of early intervention is the best way of solving problems early and is also very cost effective

Judith McCann, Health Visitor and children’s centre family support worker, Selvia Uddin worked together to encourage Tara and his mother to attend an integrated two-year review at the children’s centre. Together, they helped Tara’s mother complete the registration process. Even though the family lived two streets away from Ocean, they had never visited the building.

The two-year review carried out using the ASQ-2 screening tool, identified that Tara suffered from developmental delay in three areas of development. These were personal, social and emotional development; physical development; and communication and language delay. Tara was not meeting the age-appropriate milestones. Instead of using language, for example, Tara was pointing and using body gestures. He was also very anxious and was prone to throwing tantrums. His mother was finding it difficult to manage his behaviour.

A joint home visit was carried out by the health visitor and family support worker. The family were invited to attend stay and play sessions at Ocean Children’s Centre and an Early Help Assessment (EHA) was carried out. Ocean’s Child Development Team then made a referral to the Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessment Team who diagnosed Tara with mild autism and some educational delay. An EHCP plan was completed, enabling Tara to have extra support at school. Eventually Tara and his mum were supported through transition to school by the children’s centre family support worker and, as a result, Tara has settled well at school. Tara’s mother was seen by the children’s centre educational psychologist who offered one-to-one post diagnosis support as well as being invited to attend useful parenting and adult education support.  Through partnership working across a range of directorates in the children’s centre, the family received maximum help with minimum intrusive interviews.  Without this approach, each service would have had to establish the needs through interviews that appear repetitive and unnecessarily intrusive to parents.

The package of help available to Tara and his parents at Ocean Children’s Centre included a sleep clinic, autism workshop, physiotherapy sessions and benefit advice.

With co-ordinated support, Tara was very quickly able to adapt to different environments such as the children’s centre and the nursery class in school.  Thanks to tailored support of professionals, Tara is now sharing, playing, exploring more and overall she is more confident and happy while Tara’s mother now feels like she is more in control.

The lessons we can learn from Tower Hamlets children’s centres’ co-ordinated approach are obvious. Investment in early stage diagnosis and child and family support prevents small treatable problems from compounding into entrenched disadvantaged and persistent underachievement in school and beyond. The partnership approach pioneered with Tower Hamlets Together is creating a nationally unique programme in this borough that kicks in as soon as it is needed.  Every pound spent on early years saves eight pounds later on.


Understanding how the children’s centre offer is delivered

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From September 2017 the 12 children’s centres operate as part of the Integrated Early Years Service (IEYS).  The children’s centres offer services from their traditional locations.  There has been no change to contact details, although many of the staff are new to the centres.  The savings taken earlier this year have necessitated a restructure of all early years services, including children’s centres.  The service has been designed on the basis of the public consultations.  A universal offer, specialist services and targeted services remain in place.  The most significant change is that the specialist and targeted services are now delivered in a more focussed way in areas of greatest need. 

The council processes required some changes in names to the overall services.  The purpose of this paper is to explain these changes.  Previously, the twelve children’s centres operated through four localities:

These localities are now called “mini clusters” because the management structure for the children’s centres is now divided into East and West clusters.  The East cluster corresponds to the old North East and South East localities.  The West cluster corresponds to the old North West and South West localities.

Services at cluster level

Some specialist and targeted services are delivered at cluster level to all parents who need the service in that cluster.  The IEYS staff delivering these services travel to different centres to offer specialist and targeted services to parents who need them.  These services include:

  • Early Help QA teacher (support for settings and schools);
  • Parent and adult education co-ordinators;
  • IEYS Social Worker;
  • Young parents practitioners;
  • Speech and language support.

There are now additional services in children’s centres delivered by:

  • Public Health;
  • Clinical Commissioning;
  • Employment services;
  • Third sector partners.

The IEYS is negotiating further additional service provision of this type to run from children’s centres.

Services in the mini-clusters

Services at mini cluster level are shaped through parent forums in each children’s centre.  Parents’ views feed into the wider service offer which is being developed as a co-production model with CCG.

  • Early Help Inclusion teachers (working with around 350 children with inclusion and SEND needs);
  • Early Years Advisers (working with around 200 PVIs and child minders);
  • Child minder drop ins;
  • Health visitors (named HV for each children’s centre);
  • Peri natal services;
  • Midwifery services;
  • Ante natal classes;
  • Breast feeding support;
  • Integrated review for Two year olds (led by the Health Visiting teams);
  • Educational Psychologist;
  • Adult psychology;
  • Early Help Worker (Family Support for early help and intervention);
  • Early Help Worker (play & learning for early help if needed);
  • Nutrition  (dietician);
  • WorkPath (employment, ESOL, basic skills);
  • Parenting courses run by children’s centres. 

New developments for children’s centre services

Children and Family Centres

In 2016, the All Party Parliamentary Group published a paper: The future of children’s centres.  LBTH fed ideas into this group and has used the findings to further develop the children’s centre offer locally as “Family and Children’s Centres.”  The work is being developed and introduced jointly by IEYS and Public Health on behalf of Tower Hamlets Together.

The Clinical Commissioning Group is funding a new appointment: Early Years Transformation Manager.  This post will be primarily in the North West Children and Family Centre, and the post holder will work as needed in the other three children and family centres.


The shared aim of the Tower Hamlets Together integrated early years transformation programme is to:

Ensure that all children and their families have access to high quality, ‘joined up’ services and opportunities in order to optimise physical, social, emotional and cognitive development, improve lifelong health and wellbeing and mitigate the effects of socio-economic deprivation.

Tower Hamlets Together has identified the following priority outcomes to be improved through integration of LBTH early years services, universal maternity and early years health services (maternity, health visiting and primary care), specialist children’s services, voluntary sector and wider services (e.g. employment and housing).

  • Emotional Wellbeing (underpins educational outcomes and progress as well as long term mental health);
  • Nutrition (oral health and healthy weight);
  • Minor ailments (supports regular attendance at early education settings birth to five);
  • Early Identification (cross cutting offer - particularly important for effective early help, early  intervention and inclusion and SEND support).

Work has been completed on insight research, capacity building/training, communications and information systems.

Additional delivery sites

Members decided that six additional delivery sites should be added to the 12 children’s centres.  At present, no funding for commissioned services has been identified by the council.  Once this has been identified, additional services can be commissioned and offered.

Further updates will be provided at regular intervals to elected members.

Healthy Child Clinics - A New Service in Children’s Centres

New services are being planned and delivered in Tower Hamlets’ children’s centres in partnership with Health Visiting services provided by Tower Hamlets GP Care Group and commissioned by London Borough of Tower Hamlets Public Health.

One of these new services is  the Child Health clinic, sometimes known as the Well Baby clinic, opened in September at the Isle of Dogs’ Children’s Centre.  It is proving popular with first-time parents.

Since launching, the clinic has seen 191 babies and has registered around 150 new families to the children centre services .  “We have also seen parents and babies from the Healthy Child Clinic attending other children’s centre activities the most popular being the Active Baby session,” says children’s centre manager, Sue Nolan.

Staffed by Health Visiting teams, the Isle of Dogs Healthy Child clinic offers an alternative to the traditional GP surgery. Says Sue Nolan, “The idea around this was to de-medicalise baby clinics by placing it in a children’s centre. Our aim is to increase the number of families who may then be more inclined to use the additional services in children’s centres as well as seeing their health visitor in a more family friendly environment.”

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive: 

Parent Ivan Christian, said “I prefer coming here rather than going to my GP. This place is child friendly and only deals with the children. I now bring my baby to the play centre and the Active Baby sessions.”

“The clinic is better at the children’s centre as it is closer to home for me.  It is nice to be able to sit and use the baby area instead of waiting at the front of the GP surgery.  All staff are friendly” says young mother Tonyta Scott.

The clinic is open every Monday afternoon for parents and babies referred by their local GP as well as offering drop-in consultations for any parents wishing to attend.

The Healthy Child clinic offers advice and support for parents and carers of children aged under five years old on any issues relating to children’s  growth, health and well being, including infant feeding, introducing solids (weaning), oral health, talking to your baby, bonding with your baby and keeping yourself well.

Breast feeding is encouraged and the clinic has an area for this as well as a private space to make babies and parents as comfortable as possible during feeding.

The clinic supports parents’ understanding of a baby’s development and minimises

isolation which can be detrimental to parents emotional well being. In addition, the Healthy Child clinic promotes the government funded Healthy Start vitamin scheme, and is fully accredited to deliver the Mayor of London’s “Healthy Early Years London” quality standard, that supports and recognises early years setting achievements in child health, wellbeing and school readiness.

The Lead for Health Visiting services reported that by focussing resources on one easily accessible community site,  the clinic delivers important efficiency benefits to services and maximises  the use of resources.  “Instead of four health visitors serving four different GP based clinics, they can run the community clinic on a rota basis with two health visitors on available at any one time”.  This means that the other staff are free to undertake home visits and other vital work in order to meet the needs of children and families within the community.

The big gain from running a Healthy Child clinic is that children’s centres are able to reach more parents at an early stage, as well as targeting those parents and babies who will benefit most from the service. Visitors to the Isle of Dogs clinic are given a light touch ‘meet and greet’ session, introducing them to facilities like soft play areas, baby-friendly spaces where parents can sit and interact with their babies.  “Parents bringing their baby for a  health assessment or seeking advice may not know the full range of services we offer. When they arrive for the clinic we register them and we introduce them to sessions we run like ‘Stay and Play’”, says Jo Freeman, Childrens Centre Joint Area Coordinator.

Supporting the health visitor teams at the Children’s Centre, the Centre’s own early intervention play workers are on hand to facilitate play and learning by interacting with parents and modelling play and extended conversations. The Healthy Child clinic provides the environment where parents can talk to each other and develop support networks.

The Isle of Dogs’ clinic is providing a model that will shortly be introduced across the borough. Overland Children’s Centre is due to launch a Healthy Child clinic next month and Chrisp Street Children’s Centre will follow shortly after.

LBTH Public Health specified closer integration between the Health Visiting service and Children’s Centres when commissioning responsibility for Health Visiting transferred to the local authority. The new models of delivering services were informed by extensive consultation with local parents/carers, service providers and wider partners.   Following a tendering process, the new contract was awarded to Tower Hamlets GP Care Group who are responsible for developing the service and implementing the new integrated model in collaboration with Children’s Centres, whose role as a trusted partner is to provide a convenient point for health service delivery at the heart of their local communities.

The Health Visiting service has a national statutory requirement that all children are offered health and developmental assessments  at a number of key points in their pre school journey. Health visitors are  nurses or midwives who have undertaken additional degree level qualifications in specialist community public health. 

Healthy Child clinics enable any parent quick access to support and advice from a health visitor and now also a Children Centre early intervention worker to address any issues of concern, and so support parents.  

As a result of the recent council restructure Children’s Public Health services can now work even more closely with early years services in children's centres.