The Guardian is reporting that Labour and an early-years charity have expressed alarm after government figures showed that 156 Sure Start children’s centres closed in England in 2015, almost double the number which shut the previous year.
Sure Start centres were launched by the then Labour government in 1998, with a particular remit to provide early help to infants from disadvantaged backgrounds before they started school.
Dinenage’s answer showed that increasing numbers of the centres had shut under the coalition and Conservative governments, with 12 closing in 2011, 27 in 2012 and 33 in 2013. In 2014 the number increased to 85, and then 156 last year. As of 31 October this year there were 3,259 main children’s centres remaining.
The Department for Education has previously explained closures of Sure Start centres by saying many of the cuts involve reorganisations or mergers, denying any large-scale reduction in capacity.
But Labour MP Dan Jarvis said the government needed to explain the figures. “Sure Start centres are a proven success,” he said. “They provide families with childcare in addition to being a one-stop shop for extra support with things like healthcare or securing job opportunities.
“A child’s earliest years are critical to their future life chances. So early interventions like Sure Start should be the priority, because it is a smart investment for the future and it will give children the best start in life.
“With child poverty set to rise by 50% over this parliament, thousands of families will be affected by these closures. We will all pay for this failure in years to come.”
Do you think there is a need to keep these centres open in order to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds get the best start in life? Or do they not provide the benefits they claim to? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie
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