Visit our Every Child Matters page here.  

Visit our engaging with children page here.

Visit our Childcare Voucher page here.

Visit our Buildings page here.

Also on this page : Hard to Reach Groups  :  Childcare Ireland  :  SureStart Children's Centres :

SmithMartin LLP serving children and young peopleChildren and Young People

Children and Young People are the ‘magic’ in our vision, our development and  our future success.

They are the essence that will make our projects come alive.

Our work with children and young people builds on our aims to enable and empower all children and young people, especially where they are disenfranchised in communities.

We have specialised expertise and knowledge which covers across the years from 0 - 19.

We deliver education programmes, both specifically wuth schools and education establishments, to broaden horizons and provide additionality to the curriculum.

We coordinate and project manage centres delivering childcare, including provision from 0- 5 and after school and holiday clubs.

We engage with local authorities,statutory and voluntary organisations to deliver  and manage programmes supporting children and young people.

We are fully in working directly with children and young people in decision making and organising projects, ensuring full participation.

 In 2010 we are actively involved in for example:

Creating opportunities for young children at a Children's Centre in south London. This will also involve school age children at the school and enabling the 10 and 11 year olds to have a voice in the delivery of outside play areas and activities on offer.

Working with a team to engage with older children in the delivery of a radio station and future film club.

There are further examples of our work with children, young people and families on the website pages.

Children's Centres

Projects and clients

Children's Services

News and Events

and at City Stories, a collaborative project to develop a love of books

Social Enterprise and Childcare

A Westminster Children's Society sponsored seminar
Sue Martin reflects on the creation of community enterprise in childcare settings.
House of Commons – Thursday 20 November, 2008

How to begin? Loiter with intent - a good way to find out more about the people you are working with says Lord Mawson.

This is not meant to encourage you to be an unofficial community 'Snoopy' but as an interactive way to see what would really help people. Using a young family living on the 10th floor of a block of flats in Bromley by Bow as an illustration, Lord Mawson suggested three ways he considered helping the local community...
  1. Do a further degree in social policy related field
  2. Sit in his office or church and wait for them to come to him
  3. Go out and speak to people and set up an enterprise
The last seemed to be the best and most immediate thing he could do.

By establishing a social enterprise, the people in the community could all use their skills and expertise, they were the ones with the innovation. He was the one with the confidence who could help them to make it work. In creating a unique selling point (usp) and in using the passion and energy of the people, the social enterprise is born.

An example was of an art gallery in a church, where many artists were able to show their work and in using the church rooms for the display it became a very popular place to visit and to start to buy unique pieces of art.

What makes a successful social enterprise?
  • An entrepreneurial leader
  • A team not a committee
  • A business skill
  • Non reliance on government
  • Close relationship with local businesses
  • Innovation
In the development of social enterprise and childcare Lord Mawson proposed three key aspects:
  1. Inspiration of the children
  2. Enterprise and innovation
  3. Philanthropy and social capital
Once an establishment has moved away from being dependent on receiving funding to determine its own future it is incredibly empowering and exciting. People can achieve and work together in a team and community endeavor.
Childcare or building children's lives has a real future for everyone.

The Social Entrepreneur by Andrew Mawson

The Social Entrepreneur: Making Communities Work

'When Andrew Mawson arrived in Bromley-by-Bow in the east end of London, in the 1980s, it was in a state of social, economic and material disrepair. Living there, getting to know the residents and institutions, he soon realized that by unlocking its untapped potential, the community could begin to turn itself around. The result: the Bromley-by-Bow Centre has encouraged literacy, housing, business, health, welfare and enterprise in the area to flourish.

Time and again using the same approach, Mawson has succeeded where the government and others have failed. His inspiring and timely book will demonstrate, through his own experience how, by seeking creative, dynamic, entrepreneurial ways of tackling seemingly intractable social problems, we can all make real changes in our communities...'

Buy Andrew Mawson's book from

Paperback: 192 pages  
Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Jan 2008)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1843546612
ISBN-13: 978-1843546610

For more information try the following links...

A description of the development of social enterprise in communities by Lord Mawson can be found in an article from The Guardian, January 9th 2008. - information from the SmithMartin Partnership on community enterprise. - Information from SmithMartin on care and education issues and related work in SureStart Children's Centres. London Early years Foundation – A charity, a nursery and a social enterprise with a focus on caring for the children and fees linked to what parents can afford. The Social Enterprise Coalition promotes best practice amongst social enterprises through networks and publications. Social Enterprise is an agent for change. They work with individuals, enterprises, organisations and government to make social enterprise happen. National Campaigning Organisation for affordable and accessible and quality childcare National Children's Charity working with government, local authorities, children and parents to ensure joined up support for children and young people

Salary Sacrifice Schemes and Benefits to Working Families

What is salary sacrifice?
A salary sacrifice happens when an employee agrees to give up the right to a portion of their salary under their contract of employment. In return they receive a non cash benefit which is of advantage to them. The sacrifice is achieved by varying the employee's terms and conditions of employment relating to pay. A Salary Sacrifice scheme can be run as a solo scheme or as part of a flexible benefits package.

How can it benefit working families?
The benefit to working families can be in the form of direct payments to their childcare provider from the employer. Although the salary is reduced the employees are not incurring tax costs on this amount and the value of the benefit in kind is usually greater than the net cash that would have been received.

How does it benefit employers?
It is of benefit to employers because it is an opportunity to show value to staff throughout their employment career. It helps with retention of staff as they are experiencing the issues around raising a family and working life. It helps with recruitment of new staff as part of a possible package of measures to promote 'Family Friendly' employment. It also minimises costs for both recruitment and retention of staff.

Disadvantages to working families.
It is normal practice for the parent to agree the amount that the salary would be reduced at the start of the financial year, which would be the projected costs of the childcare. If not all of that amount is used for childcare there may be some loss of financial benefit.
There could be a loss of payment into the pension scheme and entitlement to state pensions.
The scheme needs to be clear about future salaries and increases in payments.

Disadvantages to Employers.
There will be a cost of administration of the payments to providers. It is normal for the payments only to be made to registered childcare providers.
It can be seen as being of no benefit to employees who are not requiring childcare but could be part of a range of 'Family Friendly' benefits.

Further Information...
There are some interesting methods of enabling parents to achieve a good working / life balance and to ensure that their children are both well cared for and receiving good quality education. The salary sacrifice schemes can help to achieve that and the above information is intended as a ' flavour' of some of the benefits.

The following websites may help:

Hard to Reach Groups and Children’s Centres 
An article by Sue Martin, with additional content by Parveen Hussain.

Hard to Reach Groups

Children’s Centres are an important initiative in the government’s drive to eliminate child poverty and to reduce inequalities and the effects of disadvantage on young children and their families. They are a major contributor to delivery of the outcomes in ‘Every Child Matters: being safe, staying healthy, enjoying and achieving, economic well being and making a contribution.

Two of the key principles for Children’s Centres are to provide services for all children under five and their families. They are designed to encourage access to mainstream children’s services.

There is a duty to improve life chances for all children, but in particular to reduce the inequalities between the poorest children and others. However, the most disadvantaged groups are often the least likely to use the centres.

Children’s Centres need to do more to reach the disadvantaged children and families.

In the ‘Planning and Performance Management Guidance’ from Sure Start, DfES one of the Performance indicators is access for the most excluded groups.


There is a balance between working with groups of children and families who are in need and disadvantaged and groups who are referred to as ‘Hard to Reach’.

To ensure that services are genuinely inclusive and available to all, Children’s Centres should offer a range of services, which are accessible to different groups within their community and focussed on known disadvantaged groups.

Hard to Reach’ groups may be included in disadvantaged groups, but will include other children and families, who are not accessing services and are difficult to engage in communication, for whatever reason. They are also unlikely to ask for support and not to be aware of the services on offer.

  • Together for Children definition of disadvantaged groups includes:-
  • Teenage parents
  • Partners and families of prisoners
  • Parents with drug and alcohol problems
  • Minority groups and ethnic families
  • Being homeless
  • Families in temporary accommodation
  • Lone parents
  • Children and families with disability and/or special needs

Children’s Centres Unique Identification

Children's Centres are in a position of working closely within their community and are able to engage with 'hard to reach groups' known to them.
Some contributing factors can include:-
  • Poor physical or emotional health or feeling isolated or depressed
  • Problems with substance misuse
  • Resistant, hostile or suspicious of statutory providers
  • Living in poverty and deprived environment with limited means of transport or poor/temporary accommodation
  • Suffering from domestic violence or abuse
  • Feeling discriminated because of being a minority community group or being refugee or asylum seekers
  • Have few or no models of good parenting because of their own experiences of deprived or abusive childhood
  • A parent in prison or known to be engaged in criminal activities
  • Parents working long and unsocial hours
  • Lone parents with limited family or social networks
  • Chaotic and disorganised lifestyles including being highly mobile and transient
(Source: Working with hard to reach families. Parveen Hussein , 11.01.2007)

In addition a wider number of people across social groups and some of whom have social, mental health and physical problems become unlikely to access services. 

These can also include,
  • Families who speak other languages where verbal and written communication is a problem..
  • Chaotic family organisations
  • Families with a fear of authorities
  • Families with a history of exclusion
  • Families with low aspirations and achievements,
  • Families where women are not encouraged to socialise outside the family and where women are often oppressed by partners/husbands and relatives.
Generally, the above categories are to be found across the definitions of disadvantaged groups and indicate the people with whom it is difficult to engage. These groups are considered as genuinely ‘ hard to reach’ and also in need.

Whereas the disadvantaged groups are considered to be in need but not necessarily ‘hard to reach’.
Children’s Centres are in a strong position to identify and develop strategies to work with ‘hard to reach’ groups within their own communities

Identification and Strategies

The report from the National Audit Office on Sure Start Children’s Centres indicates that Centres need to identify ‘hard to reach’ groups in their communities and to work with the local authorities to develop strategies and methods which can be measured and included in the Performance Management for Children’s Centres reporting.

Some suggested strategies include:-
  • Consultation
  • Targeted support from outreach workers
  • Strong links with health organisations
  • Sharing data on disadvantaged children and families
  • Regular tracking of hard to reach groups to measure ‘take up’
  • Involve voluntary and community organisations
  • Connect with the wider family members
  • Increase awareness of services available at Children’s Centres
  • Ensure all staff are involved
  • Ensure accessibility of main site
  • Provide outreach services to homes
  • Visit vulnerable families
  • Provide transport for isolated families
  • Offer translation support
  • Create social networks amongst parents
  • Offer advice in an informal way
  • Provide relevant services
As part of the drive to eliminate child poverty, Children's Centres will be able to make a significant difference to the lives of many children and their families. 
Through their own success in partnership working and effective outreach support in a targeted and sensitive way they will determine better life chances for children today.

Good websites to visit

Childcare Ireland
Since establishing the Office of the Minister for Children (OMC), the government has shown committment to improving the lives of children in IrelandGalway in Ireland - a developing city through the National Children's Strategy. Many initiatives and procedures are now in place, which when fully implemented will bring huge benefits for for all children and young people.
The OMC will be focussing on areas such as :-
  • early childhood care and education
  • youth justice
  • child welfare and protection                                                                                                                                              
  • children and young people's participation
  • cross cutting intiatives for children
    (Picture: Galway - a developing city)
The Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan is at the forefront of policy and delivery in enabling children to have a stronger voice on issues that affect them. He is already involved in:-
  • Implementation of the National Childcare Strategy (2000-2010)
  • Implementing the National Childcare Investment Programe (2006-2010)
  • Developing policy and legislation on child welfare and child protection
  • Implementing the Children Act (2001)
On 6th October 2006 he announced the new Childcare Regulations,which will be implemented in January 2007.The regulations will be important in ensuring that quality provision is put in place and that standards of childcare are maintained at a high level throughout Ireland.

An exciting time to be involved in working with childcare and pre-school education in Ireland. The investment in both capital projects and for revenue will enable organisations to deliver childcare into areas where there is a proven need and be part of a package of programes to lift areas out of disadvantage.

There will be benefits to children and families in Ireland and this will be reflected through higher achievements, outcomes and to improved opportunities for employment and training. People's life chances and aspirations for their families will see a better future.

There are a number of models in other European countries where support to make quality childcare affordable has real long term economic benefits, a real spark to a growing and dynamic economy and a way to improve the life opportunities for young people.

Useful websites:
A very useful set of resources - focused on the West of Ireland, - but with content around the national context too.

Office of the Minister for Children - Ireland
A history of the developing childcare strategy in Ireland.

Sure Start Children's Centres

800,000 children are now being supported by the 1000 Sure Start Children's Centres running across the country, in the most disadvantaged areas.Learning at a Children's Centre
They provide good quality integrated services to children under five and their families. They aim to give every child the best possible start in life and they will have a broad and lasting impact on children, their parents and the wider community.

Services are provided in a 'joined up way' which is having a major role in the way parents can contact professionals for support and help.
"A key reason for the success of children's centres is the involvement of parents in the development and delivery of services." 
Beverley Hughes; letter to Children's Centre Managers 4.10.06

SmithMartin Partnership
We are fully involved in the Phase 2 development of Childrens Centres, engaged with a large London Borough to ensure successful completion of an ambitious programme. 

Working with Capital Strategy teams, finance and business planning and the Early Years teams we provide a package of measures to deliver a range of models many of which are based within schools.

The Children's Centre programme is a major part of the Government's 10 year Childcare strategy. The ambitious plans for establishment of a Children's Centre in every community by 2010 is backed by substantial funding to enable Local Authorities to deliver the programme.

The first Children's Centres are now established in the most disadvantaged communities. Phase 2 will see this extended in more communities to ensure that by 2008 30% of the most disadvantaged areas in the country.

The centres will provide a base for delivering high quality childcare and the 'core offer', working within a partnership agreement between a range of providers, including Health, Education, Job Centre Plus, National Childminding Association, Social Services and the Voluntary and Community Sector.

What do they do?
Moving at a Children's CentreChildren's Centres serve a community for about 800 children under five years old and their families, although this can be smaller numbers in dispersed rural areas. 

There a range of models depending on the community; from inner city to rural and following consultation the most suitable model can be utilised. Initially new buildings were designed and built and although this is still continuing, there is also emphasis on adaptations and refurbishing, especially in the involvement of schools and the Extended Services.

Children's Centres provide:-
  • Childcare for a minimum of five days a week, 
    48 weeks a year and 10 hours a day.
  • Early Years and childcare provision with teacher input.
  • Child and family health services.
  • Parental involvement
  • A base for child minder networks.
  • Family Support Services
  • Support for families and children with special needs.
  • Effective links with JobCentre Plus,local training providers and further education institutions.
Delivering the programme
To make this vision come to life delivery of the project is the responsibility of the Local Authorities. They have been given substantial funding to enable this to happen but there are many issues around the initial development stages and consultation which create hazards and time delaying factors. It is no small feat to deliver such an expansive programme within the community to the envisaged time scales.

Consultation with stakeholders and user groups, parents and families is an essential driver of ensuring that the programme meets the needs of the community it serves.
Innovation and partnership with a range of providers will mean that Children's Centre's across the country will be a creative range of models, from newly constructed premises to buildings with existing provision, to a 'hub and spoke' approach with outreach access across communities.

Vision and Future
Such an exciting programme will enable families, parents and children to have access to services, advice and support. It will bring together a wealth of partners who are all passionate about making lives better for young children. Growing at a Children's Centre

It will 'front load' services in the foundations of a child's development which should enable the child to have a better chance in life's opportunities. It should signal the prevention agenda which will not only be beneficial to the child but should also be 'funding helpful' in the future.
The links to the five outcomes of Every Child Matters are fundamental to the programme.
  • Be Healthy
  • Stay Safe
  • Enjoy and Achieve
  • Make a Positive Contribution
  • Achieve Economic Well-Being
Further Information:-
Contact SmithMartin Partnership for further help or an informal discussion.

How we might help.

Working with projects to develop outreach - facilitating new experiences in culture, arts and the environment.

Help in planning for the formation of Children's Centres, by working with partnerships developing processes and strategies to achieve the five outcomes of The Children's Bill.

Assisting in exploring ways to create participation of children and young people in their right to be involved in decisions affecting their lives, making policies and outcomes relevant, transparent and understandable.

For Out of School child-care schemes we can help projects to maximise funding and service user take-up. Using social enterprise expertise to ensure a long-term service future.

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