According to The Independent, spending on Sure Start centres across England has been slashed by nearly a quarter in four years, figures show, as thousands of vulnerable children and families are left to “fend for themselves”.
A new analysis of government data shows councils spent £480m on children’s centres in 2017-18 – almost 25 per cent less than the £637m spent in 2014-15.
Sure Start centres, introduced in 1998 with the aim of bringing services for young children and their families together “under one roof”, have been described as a “lifeline” for some parents, particularly those living in complex situations.
The spending cut comes as a cross-party group of MPs warned the government had been “painfully slow” to act on failing children’s services, with the delivery date for its programme of reforms for the sector having slipped from 2020 to 2022.
The Public Accounts Committee said the Department for Education had not done enough to make the quality or finances of children’s social care sustainable, with 91 per cent of local authorities having exceeded their budgets for spending on children’s services last year.
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said the cuts in Sure Start spending painted a “bleak picture of children’s services across the country on their knees, and the government’s continued failure to grasp this very real crisis”.
Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi said the government was spending around £3.5bn on its early education entitlements this year and investing £84m over the next five years to support up to 20 local authorities who are seeing high or rising demand for children’s social care to work more effectively with their most vulnerable families.
She added: “We believe it is up to local councils to decide how to organise and commission services in their areas, as they are best-placed to understand local needs.”
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