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4Children was a charity in the UK focusing on children and families. Formerly the National Out of School Alliance and then the Kids' Club Network, the organisation was formed in 1983 to develop after-school provision following research conducted by Bassac.[1]

4Children ran 88 Sure Start Children’s Centres across the country, 42 nurseries, 21 out of school clubs and provides services in 24 activity centres at Royal Air Force bases[2] in partnership with the RAF Benevolent Fund.


National Out of School Alliance (1980-1987)[edit]

  • In 1980 a number of research and pilot projects set up during the International Year of the Child in 1979 led the following year to the formation of the Out of School Project which aimed to support and encourage community-based out of school schemes and local authority provision in schools, youth clubs etc., through advice, information, training and research. Through its work with the Thames Television Telethon and the support it provided to new and existed local groups, this eventually led to the formation of the National Out of School Alliance, which became an independent organisation in 1983. The Alliance aimed to promote the care and education of children during the out of school hours and school holidays.
  • By 1987 National Out of School Alliance was working at the national level to advocate for the need for out of school provision and was working with the European Commission Childcare Network on its review of provision throughout Europe and on follow-up action.
  • The number of staff employed had doubled by 1989 and the Alliance published its Guidelines of Good Practice for Out of School Care – the first such guidelines to be issued which were awarded the 1989 Prince of Wales award.

Kid's Club Network 1990-1999[edit]

In 1990 the Alliance was re-registered as the Kids’ Clubs Network. There were 300 kids’ clubs in the UK, but the organisation estimated that a total of 25,000 clubs – one in every neighbourhood or near every primary school – were needed. A year later the first regional offices opened in Merseyside and Wales. By 1992 10 regional development projects were operational and the number of kids’ clubs had risen to 600, and in 1994 the 1000th kids’ club was opened in Walsall - an important milestone for the kids’ clubs movement. Kids’ Clubs Network had expanded rapidly in Wales and a Welsh Head Office was established in Cardiff with a national manager heading up a team of local project managers. Tony Blair attended the opening of the 2000th Kids’ Club at Sedgefield Out of School Fun Club. The first ever national campaign day - National Kids’ Clubs Day was launched in on 7 June 1995. Over 600 delegates attended at the 1998 Kids’ Clubs Network’s biggest ever conference. The key note speaker, David Blunkett, spoke about the National Childcare Strategy to improve the provision of childcare in the UK. A

In 2000, Kids’ Clubs Network set up the Childcare Commission – an independent inquiry into the future for childcare and family support. Chaired by the Harriet Harman MP, the Commission published its findings in January 2001.


In 2004 Kids’ Clubs Network changed its name to 4Children.[3] The newly named organisation was officially launched at the organisation’s annual policy conference ‘Tomorrow’s World’ at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster. The following year the charity announced plans to expand their work by running children's centres in partnership with local government.[4] In 2009, 4Children launched the Family Commission, an inquiry which asked 10,000 families their experiences of family life and family policy in the UK. Chaired jointly by Esther Rantzen and Anne Longfield, the report underlined the need for greater understanding in public services for the reality of family life, and successfully called for the extension of Children's Centres.[5][6][7]

Strategic Partnership[edit]

4Children is Department for Education's strategic partner for early years and childcare. Through The Children’s Partnership (the Government's voluntary sector partnership for children and families) 4Children brings early years and childcare organisations together, supporting the development of quality and advising Government.

4Children's Foundation Years[8] website supports early years professionals. Developed collaboratively by professionals in the sector, for the sector, it brings together information from many sources that help support the development of children.


Give Me Strength Give Me Strength, was launched in May 2011. It calls on government, communities and families to take action to solve problems early to prevent family breakdown. The campaign is also calling on central and local Government to provide: A new family friendly approach to services, support for all families with specialist support for those families with complex and multiple problems, a new approach to services to put families first with practical help and support to tackle problems early as they develop

Make Space for Health Make Space is the charity’s longest-running campaign, managed in conjunction with Nestle’s Healthy Kids programme, and helps to spread the message about the importance of healthy lifestyle choices among young people.[9] The campaign looks to do this through youth centres and other out-of-school settings as young people told 4Children’s Youth Review they wanted advice about healthy living from respected adults in informal settings. As well as working directly with young people through Make Space ambassadors, the campaign provides resources for all youth workers to use for free.

Shout out for a sure start The ‘Shout out for a sure start’ campaign was launched in February 2010 to ensure that Sure Start Children's Centres were kept at the top of the agenda through the 2010 election and beyond. A coalition of more than 30 charities and other organisations along with children’s TV character Peppa Pig backed the campaign and Sure Start funding was protected in cash terms in that autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review. The campaign later released research on projected Sure Start Children's Centre closures and received widespread national media attention before issuing guidance for parents on how to campaign against local cuts and closures to Sure Start.


4Children began a period of rapid corporate growth under its Chief Executive Anne Longfield. However, this was not matched by growing revenues and the charity ran into financial trouble. It ceased operations and entered administration on 1 September 2016. Before its financial difficulties were publicly known, Longfield was appointed Children's Commissioner for England. Many of its functions were assumed by Action for Children.[10]


  1. ^ Bonel, Paul (2000). "Good Practice in Playwork Second Edition: A Guide to Good Practice". books.google.co.uk. pp. 5–6. ISBN 978-0-7487-5496-0. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  2. ^ "4Children launches youth work projects for RAF | Children & Young People Now". cypnow.co.uk. 20 August 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  3. ^ "CHARITY RELAUNCH: Kids' Clubs unveils its new identity | Children & Young People Now". cypnow.co.uk. 3 March 2004. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  4. ^ "Children's Centres: 4Children plans radical expansion | Children & Young People Now". cypnow.co.uk. 22 March 2005. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  5. ^ Williams, Rachel (22 February 2010). "Families say public services fail them". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  6. ^ O'Hara, Mary (31 May 2011). "4Children spearheads early years initiative". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  7. ^ "Welcome to The Family Commission website". Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  8. ^ "Foundation Years". www.4children.org.uk.
  9. ^ "RACING CLUB MAKE SPACE FOR TEENAGERS - Local - Warwick Courier". warwickcourier.co.uk. 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  10. ^ Butler, Patrick (5 September 2016). "Childcare charity 4Children goes into administration". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2016.

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