Save our Sure Start services
You may have missed the news from the Daycare Trust that 250 Sure Start children’s centres face closure – after the seemingly relentless tirade of bad news stories about cuts to services, from libraries to the Citizen Advice Bureau, from after school clubs to women’s refuges, yet another cuts story rarely grabs headlines.
It seemed too good to be true when the Coalition Government promised that Sure Start services would be protected in cash terms. It was. We already knew “cash terms” meant a 9% cut in real terms. We also knew that the ringfencing of Sure Start budgets was to end. In a context of Local Authorities facing budget cuts of 28%, it didn’t take a great leap of the imagination to envisage Sure Start budgets being raided as soon as the ringfencing was removed.
So now the money once earmarked for early years care and family services is up for grabs as Town Halls up and down the country desperately try to plug the gaping holes in their budgets. Not only are 250 Sure Start centres facing closure, but a further 2000 are cutting back on the services they offer and 1000 have issued “at risk of redundancy” notices to their staff.
For anyone in any doubt about the value of Sure Start, it is well worth having a look at the Shout out for Sure Start campaign for testimonies from parents who rely on the services provided. It’s not all baby yoga for middle class mums as some would have you believe. From toddler groups, to childcare, to breastfeeding support, to counselling, to nutrition advice, to help with benefits and job seeking, Sure Start centres offer a wide range of invaluable services to families who could not afford to pay for them privately.
As Anand Shukla of the Daycare Trust says:
“Behind every Children’s Centre facing closure is a community of families devastated at losing one of their most valued local services. The tragedy of these cuts is that the full extent of Sure Start’s impact on children’s development will only be achieved in the long term – and the impending closure of so many Centres means this investment will not now be fully realised.”