Research Review: Family centres

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This paper provides a review of the literature about family centres and other examples of centre-based practice. The literature reflects a period of some 25 years in which practice has sought to integrate protection, support for families and local development in local centres. The literature shows great descriptive activity in the 1980s, and some Children Act (1989) sponsored studies, particularly of the voluntary sector, in the early 1990s, followed by inactivity before a new and more sophisticated literature emerges in the late 1990s and early 2000. While lacking experimental design, the strengths of the contemporary picture show in the appreciative voice of the user, including those at the very margins; studies of support programmes nurtured by centres; lessons about socially inclusive practice and the melding of formality and informality; theorization about centre-based practice as a containing space; and attempts to understand complexity and synergy and to develop a theory of change. This domain of practice appears to have much to offer the new UK child care strategy and inter-professional context if the opportunity is taken.

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