Sure Start: voices of the 'hard-to-reach'

C. Coe, A. Gibson, N. Spencer, M. Stuttaford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives This research aimed to look in depth at the factors affecting the ability of four Sure Start local programmes, based in a multicultural Midlands city, to engage with 'hard-to-reach' populations.

Methods A variety of research strategies and methods were employed. Geographical information systems, participatory research methods and interviews were used in order to understand the extent of the challenge, and hear first hand, why parents may not get involved with Sure Start. The mapping exercise involved collation and mapping of postcode data with respect to boundaries and potential and actual users of Sure Start services. This made possible the identification of any geographical patterning in the distribution of service users and non-users. Participatory research methods were used with parents, enabling them to conduct short interviews within their own communities and make sense of the data collected. Interviews were also conducted with 70 parents across the city, recruited through local schools.

Results The results indicate that parental decisions regarding Sure Start are the product of a complex interaction between numerous factors which may act as either barriers or facilitators to service utilization.

Conclusions The results suggest that a multi-method approach to data collection is useful and appropriate in gaining access to those parents who are non-users of the Sure Start services and enabling their voices to be heard. These findings offer some explanations and insight into the apparent ambivalent attitudes of some families toward Sure Start services. Implications for future practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-453
Number of pages7
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008


  • 'hard to reach'
  • Sure Start


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