The benefits of holding claimant sessions in Children Centres

In Greenwich, JCP Claimant sessions are held at 2 Children’s Centres (Storkway Children’s Centre in Eltham and Mulgrave Children’s Centre in Woolwich) twice a month. Lone Parents of pre-school age children are offered an appointment at a Children’s Centre with a Work Coach to discuss their options of starting work / study. The appointments are not compulsory but it is strongly encouraged that the parents attends. If the parent does not attend, the Work Coach will contact them over the telephone as an alternative.

One of the Work Coaches who facilitates these sessions, Janet Gaffney from Woolwich JCP, spoke to me about the benefits of holding these sessions in a Children’s Centre;

Which type of clients/claimants do you invite to the Children's Centre to meet with you?

The sessions are aimed at Lone Parents on Income Support who have Children between the ages of 1 and 4. The parents are invited along with an appointment to talk about preparing to return to work or study. They get the opportunity to speak to a Work Coach and talk about their options.

What difference does it make to you as a worker to hold claimant sessions at a Children’s Centre as opposed to a job centre?

The Children Centres are more relaxed, suitable environment for children. This means that the parent is more likely to open up to me and talk about any barriers or issues in returning to work. Sometimes other agencies attend, such as Greenwich Families Information Service and the PACEY Together for Two’s worker to provide additional information on childcare and funded childcare hours. This is very informative for the parents. 

What difference do you think it makes to the parent / carer and their children to meet in this environment?

Parents can talk freely without having children listening. The environment is much more relaxed and comfortable for the parent and their child/children. The children can play with the toys, often there is a Children’s Centre play worker on hand, and this seems to make the parent more relaxed than in a Job Centre environment.

What long term benefits do you think this has to the parents to get them work ready and thinking about going back into work / study?

Parents can talk to us to help them to prepare for training/work. It gives them the opportunity to consider their options about returning to work in the future and they get lots of information, not just about jobs and benefits but also to get advice on courses that are run by the Children’s Centres and about help with Childcare. They get to see returning to work in a positive light with supportive professionals on hand to offer advice and overcome any barriers. I think it would be beneficial to roll this scheme out across the borough and in other Local Authorities as it works very well for work coaches and parents. There is always a high percentage of parents who are invited that attend on the day.

Source JCP Storkway Feedback shared by Janet Gaffney of Woolwich JCP – 18 December 2019.