From the TUC

Shout out for a Sure Start!

07 Sep 2010, by in Society & Welfare

A majority of Ofsted evaluations of Sure Start centres indicate that their outreach efforts are successful at reaching the most vulnerable families. A study of Ofsted reports by children’s charity 4Children found that 57% had had a “highly positive” report and another 32% were “adequate”.

The future of Sure Start in the CSR is far from certain, and these findings will build support for 4Children’s “Shout Out for a Sure Start” campaign. The study will also feed in to the debates of the Family Commission the charity has established – due to report shortly before the Comprehensive Spending Review is published.

For those of us who worry that Sure Start would become less popular if it were means-tested, David Cameron’s took a significant step last month. In a widely-reported speech he argued that Sure Start should be restricted to the poorest families to protect them from the “sharp-elbowed middle classes”. This is in line with the Conservative manifesto, which said that the Party’s pledge to provide an extra 4,200 Sure Start health visitors would be paid for

out of the Department of Health budget and by refocusing Sure Start’s peripatetic outreach services.

This means that the evidence that Sure Start outreach services are successful at reaching the most vulnerable is particularly important – something to bear in mind if claims that the middle classes are monopolising Sure Start Centres are used to justify cuts next month.

9 Responses to Shout out for a Sure Start!

  1. J
    Sep 13th 2010, 2:22 pm

    I work for a Surestart Centre. Only the middle class access our service. Only 29 parents per week use our service and this represents only 1.19% of the ‘reach’. I have calculated that toys are costing us £50 each time a parent borrows them. 95% of our job is admin and only about 1% actually helping families. The service is therefore a complete farce.

  2. Becky Saunders
    Oct 2nd 2010, 8:57 pm

    Yes I work in Cornwall and that seems very much to be the case in our county as well. I don’t think toy library and stay and play sessions are the best use of government money and dont really help to eliminate childhood poverty

  3. Lindsay Landsley
    Oct 4th 2010, 1:44 pm

    Today Cameron said cuts need to be ‘deep and fast’. He is right. Surestart should not remain ringfenced. I worked for 5 years in Suffolk and they have the right idea: services to be cut by 30% across departments and voluntary agencies to step in to take over some services. Surestart is dogged by red tape, political correctness, risk assessment and procedures for everything, endless meetings and not a lot is actually achieved for the parents out there. Only a small number are reached; usually well off people. Staff morale was so low. There will always be Victoria Climbies. The government are misguided.

  4. Ruth Parkinson
    Oct 5th 2010, 1:58 pm

    “Surestart is dogged by red tape, political correctness, risk assessment and procedures for everything, endless meetings and not a lot is actually achieved for the parents out there. Only a small number are reached; usually well off people. Staff morale was so low.” I agree with Lindsay entirely on this.

    I agree that Sure Start Centres are monopolised by people whose children are not at risk of under achieving or being affected by child poverty. I worked in centre for just over a year. I was horrified by how much money is wasted on trips for families who have cars of their own, baby groups where no young mums would dare attend as they were full of middle class well off 30+ mums. There was no knowledge at management level of the EYFS and lots of money was wasted and is still being wasted on resources with little or no relevance to the educational needs of 0-5s.

    No effort was made to enter into the nearby deprived areas and the only time we had any decent attendance by those who could really do with accessing the facilities was when loads of money was spent on getting in cartoon characters to attract people. They came on the day but never came back again.

    I won’t deny that a couple of needy families were helped but not enough difference is being made to warrant the millions being spent on these centres. The managers that I know just keep filling up the databases with people who had filled in a form and that seemed to be satisfying the powers that be. grrrrrr I could go on for ever!!!!

  5. J
    Oct 8th 2010, 9:41 pm

    This site, I am sad to say reported my blog (see above)to senior management and I have since been disciplined. Whatever happened to freedom of speech? I have been disciplined for my revelations about the serious failings in the Surestart project and the gross wastage of public resources at a time when this country is in severe economic crisis. The project has lost site of it’s original aim: to eliminate childhood poverty and has become swamped in bureaucracy. Attendance levels at some centres are incredibly low. This is a fact which cannot be denied. And of these parents the vast majority are not the so called ‘hard to reach’. Attendance levels are so low that some centres are having to ‘massage’ the figures by various means in order to justify budgets.
    We live in a democracy. As adults we pay tax. We are entitled to know how our money is being spent. And politicians need to know how they can best redirect resources to where they are most needed.

  6. Ruth Parkinson
    Oct 8th 2010, 10:14 pm

    Joanna thats awful! I don’t know what management is like where you are but where I worked it seemed that management had learnt to ‘talk the talk’ and that got them by with ‘head office’!! The figures where I were were stagnant and a ‘reach’ was just someone filling in a form. I ask myself…….what can I do about it? Have you got any ideas? I could see so much potential for helping the people that need it where I worked but the vision just wasn’t there at management level so the maximum potential could never have been acheived.

  7. J
    Oct 9th 2010, 9:01 am

    Hi Ruth,
    I thought your case was spot on and very eloquent. I feel very passionately about this. I dont trust this website but wanted to make my views known to the public because I feel they have a right to know, as taxpayers what is going on in government and I also want the politicians to know the truth. I also feel passionately that the poor are missing out on vital services and are not being reached mainly because links between so called partners are not effective and red tape and other restrictions.

  8. J
    Oct 21st 2010, 6:43 pm

    Commenting in the Daily Mail today Edward Heathcoat Amory expresses his concern at the continued ringfencing of the Surestart budget. He states that the Surestart programme ‘provides a mishmash of services for parents and children, with no evidence at all that its made any positive difference to children – at an annual cost of one billion a year.’

  9. J
    Oct 26th 2010, 1:35 pm

    I was on Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ programme this morning discussing my views, as above. Matthew Sinclair from the Taxpayers Alliance was also on the programme. I was pleased that he heard my views and hope that he will take them on board for his campaign