Working with partners: a multi-agency approach

Bookstart supports a wide range of objectives across sectors, including:

  • The Healthy Child Programme
  • 1001 Days
  • The Children and Young People’s Promise
  • The Early Years Foundation Stage

The early years sector has been affected by a number of changes including funding and commissioning, so a multi-agency approach is considered one of the most effective ways to adapt to the new landscape. With the sector working in partnership, families are placed at the centre, and communities and families can be effectively supported.

How does multi-agency working support Bookstart?

  • The Bookstart programme is a real partnership between BookTrust, Arts Council England and a huge variety of organisations
  • Vital partnerships between BookTrust, the 152 local authorities who currently deliver Bookstart and the publishers who put their books forward for selection
  • Without the partnerships between local authorities and health visitors, children’s centres, early years settings, libraries and others, Bookstart could not be delivered

Key factors for success

  • Create a communication strategy across agencies
  • Ensure you understand the aims and objectives of each of your partners
  • It’s a gradual process, so don’t try to rush and just take it one step at a time
  • Remember to put the family at the centre of your strategy – view it from their perspective
A health visitor gifting a Baby Pack

Why is a multi-agency approach effective?

'Multi-agency is not just about sharing a building, it’s about organisations working together for the families.'
Paul Bristow, Director of Partnerships, Arts Council England

Case studies


  • Cumbria has a birth rate of about 4,500 covering a wide geographical area
  • As public health commissioning for 0-5s has transferred to the local authority, it is now responsible for commissioning the Healthy Child Programme and are using the opportunity to integrate children’s centres
  • In April 2017, health visitors will be brought back into children’s centres. Centres have been asked to increase their offer to include healthy weight and breast feeding, with an emphasis on integrated services
  • To ensure ‘buy in’, there are programme and project delivery boards to clarify roles and responsibilities
  • Workshops have been arranged to support transition for staff

What do you think are the important aspects to be considered in developing a combined service?

  • Protecting the five mandatory contacts for health visitors
  • Promoting high impact areas combined with EYFS and development
  • Improving readiness for school
  • Integrating the 2-year review
  • Addressing disadvantage
'Benefits of multi-agency working? Better communication. Family will be placed at the centre.'
Kate Clarke, Strategic Lead for Children’s Centres Cumbria


  • Birmingham has a birth rate of about 17,000, making it one of the largest local authorities in England
  • Birmingham uses an approach called ‘Right Service, Right Time’
  • Colocating health visiting and children’s centres is not just about cost saving, but improving quality and ‘listening to the voice of the child’
  • Health visitors and children’s centre both work within the community as much as possible (e.g. with mosques, library and GP surgeries) so can signpost effectively

What are the benefits of multi-agency working for the family?

  • The family gets a consistent message
  • They will be signposted to get the right help
  • The Bookstart gifting message is the same for every family in terms of quality, avoiding duplication or missing out on the offer entirely

How does Bookstart support your service’s aims and objectives?

  • The pack supports communicating with the family
  • The idea of parents as a child’s first educator is central
  • Supports early attachment so child can flourish and learn
  • Bookstart links us all and acts as a natural gel to connect services
'Bringing two services together avoids duplication.'
Elaine Meredith, Clinical Lead for Health Visiting, Birmingham NHS Trust

What our partners say


'Understand what the priorities are of other agencies.'
Sue Ball Stock, Services and Activities Manager, Staffordshire
  • Really understand the priorities and outcomes of partners and those strategic leaders you want to talk to
  • Map your library offer against outcomes; identify how you can meet their outcomes
  • Have an elevator pitch that sparks an interest in your programme and highlights your organisation
  • Have robust evidence; you can find lots of research on the BookTrust website


'Bookstart is important to the Healthy Child Programme as it helps with bonding and attachment, speech and language development and provides opportunities for stimulation, learning and general development.' 
Ruth Chittenden, Health Visitor Patch Team Lead, North Lincs
  • Make sure you understand each of your partners’ worlds to deliver the very best
  • Working together ensures parents get the very best from books and highlights the importance of sharing books together

Children’s Centres

'Always know your areas and community.'
Liz Merritt, Early Years Workforce Development Manager, Poole
  • Know your area, who you are working with - or wanting to work with - and know your community
  • The Bookstart programme is high quality and it is our job to get it out there and share it with families
  • Bookstart is an amazing tool for children’s centres, so keep reminding people
  • A multi-agency approach is very useful as it allows us to work with health and library partners, and to make sure we are dealing with early concerns

You might also like

Resources to use

Find out about our resources

From fun lesson plans to posters for your children's centre, find out more and search for resources which are right for you.

What's happening?

Stay up to date

Make sure you don't miss a thing with our news and features about everything to do with the children's book world.

Our programmes

Find out about our programmes

Learn more about our range of projects and campaigns, designed to help people of all ages and backgrounds enjoy reading and writing.