Imagine having a family in London, and trying to decide between over 50 service agencies to provide core services. Well, that was the case 4 years ago.
Today, new co-ordinated family centres have brought a welcome change to families looking for core services in the city.
The centres are necessary because families were still having a hard time finding programs and services in London. Some families needed to travel all over town to reach them, while others had to tell their story to multiple people before they found what they were looking for.
“There’s an equality of service across the city, and people know what they’re going to get,” said Adrienne Small, the manager of children’s services for the City of London.
“At every family centre we offer parenting, early learning, child care, education, health and wellness programming, and recreational sports and leisure.”
Right now, there are 4 family centres in London: Argyle, Carling-Thames, Westmount, and White Oaks, with plans for 3 more to be built in the coming months.
While the core services remain the same at every family centre, each provides unique services to best benefit the communities they serve. Each family centre has a community connector, who is in direct contact with families to provide them with the services they want.
“They are individuals who are familiar with all of what’s available in the community,” explained Small.
“They help families get connected to information, help them with referrals and resources, and make suggestions for what’s possible in the community.”
Shelley Byfield is the co-ordinator at the White Oaks Family Centre, and says their success is largely due to families getting access to the services they want.
“If you look at the calendar of programs and activities that the four family centres have, there’s just a wealth of programming that’s available for families,” said Byfield.
“People feel really comfortable coming in and asking for help.”
According to stats released by the Child and Youth Network, 94% of families who visited one of the centres said they felt comfortable accessing the services, and 90% said it was easy to access services for their children.
The family centres in London work together to provide services at both a family level, and a system level, to bring communities and neighbourhoods together.
They have emerged as an excellent option for families to get access, and give input, to the services they want.