Lucy Powell, Shadow Minister for Childcare and Children, has today revealed new figures that show the fundamental reduction of Sure Start centres under the current government.
As part of the Labour leaderships’ series of interventions over the summer (which they’ve called The Choice), Powell, writing in the New Statesman, explains how there are now 628 fewer Sure Start centres than there were in April 2010 – this averages out at a reduction of three every week over this period.
She has said of the Sure Start centres that remain open many “face an uncertain future” because statistics show since 2010, one in ten provides fewer services, one in six has seen a reduction in hours, and one in five has fewer staff.
In contrast, she lays out an agenda that would see Labour “renewing” and “reinvigorating” Sure Start. As part of Labour’s wider commitment to significant devolution, Powell explains
“Sure Start is intrinsic to Labour values of giving every child the best start and for putting early intervention at the heart of public service reform. Children’s centres are part of the fabric of family life for so many. Yet under the Tories their future is precarious and under threat. That’s why we will renew our commitments to Sure Start through reforming how services are delivered and prioritised.
She will goes on to explain that in order to ensure this, Labour will develop “new guiding principles” ,particularly at a time when “funding is tight”. To achieve this, Powell writes:
“We need a shift away from sticking-plaster services to radical early help which allows local areas to tackle the root causes of problems in their communities, freeing families from disadvantage and giving them the tools to build strong families and fulfil the aspirations they have for their children. This shift in culture and policy requires leadership at the centre and locally, however, and this is something the current Government are failing to provide. It’s clear from their lack of policy and focus on Sure Start that ministers are content to let the programme whither on the vine.
“So the choice on Sure Start is clear – if Sure Start is to continue providing quality support and services to families across the country, we need a Government that will make it a policy priority and provide direction. This means working closely with local authorities and learning the lessons from places that are managing to reshape what they offer when money is tight.”