The idea that services can be provided for young children within their families in a seamless way that serves the interests of children and families simultaneously is problematic. A theoretical flaw underpinning the ideal of integrated services is that families are assumed to be homogenous units. This article explores competing goals for children and families by examining data from the evaluation of three Early Excellence Centres in the north of England piloted by the Department for Education and Employment from 1999 to 2002. The article recommends that extended childcare services should be clearly targeted to the needs of the child-within-the-family, thereby providing a clear theoretical foundation for re-conceptualising joined-up services. © 2006 The Author(s). Journal compilation © 2006 National Children's Bureau.
This paper is original in that it engages with new debates about inter-professional collaboration arising through recent policy initiatives such as Sure Start, Children's Centres, Extended Schools and 'Every Child Matters'. The impact of the paper lies in its very timely publication just after the publication of, and public response to, the UNICEF report 2007 showing the poor performance of the UK in child wellbeing. The paper presents a significant theoretical contribution to the resolution of deeply divided and competing social policy goals, for parental employment, on the one hand, and child care and education, on the other. In an upsurge of interest in these competing policy goals I predict this paper will provide a significant contribution by emphasising a theoretical approach that is clearly focused on the child-within-the-family. The paper has already been requested by the Cabinet Office review, June 2007. The paper was refereed by two experts. RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Education