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250 Sure Start children's centres face closure within a year

28 January 2011 

Charities urge councils to protect Sure Start as 60,000 families set to lose their children's centre 

The true scale of the potential closures and cuts to Sure Start Children Centres has been laid bare today for the first time, with approximately 250 at risk of closing within a year; a further 2,000 cutting back the services they offer to families and 1,000 Centres issuing ‘at risk of redundancy notices' to staff.

The findings of a new survey of Sure Start Children's Centre Managers across England, carried out by 4Children and Daycare Trust, provides the first national data on the impact of cuts and has prompted the national charities to raise to the alarm. The charities warn that closing Children's Centres risks withdrawing crucial support for families at a time when there is a growing consensus that giving children the best start in life can tackle intergenerational disadvantage and reduce the cost of social failure. 

The charities are calling on Local Authorities to do more to prioritise funding for Sure Start Children's Centres - whose budget was protected in cash terms in the Government's Spending Review, though the ring-fencing of the money was removed. 

The national survey suggests that over the next 12 months:

  • 250 (7%) will close or are expected to close, affecting an estimated 60,000 families1
  • 2,000 (56%) will provide a reduced service
  • 3,100 (86%) will have a decreased budget
  • Staff at 1,000 centres (28%) have been issued with ‘at risk of redundancy' notices2

Anne Longfield OBE, Chief Executive of 4Children said:

"Families across the country, particularly the most vulnerable, depend on Sure Start Children's Centres to help get their children off to the best start in life.  We know that Local Authorities have some extremely difficult spending decisions to make but Government is continuing to provide adequate funding to keep Centres open and councils should resist the temptation to use this money to plug gaps elsewhere. 

"Local Authorities need to find new ways to ensure Sure Start Children's Centres ‘earn their keep' by allowing them to become genuine hubs for all children and families services in communities; reducing replication and improving impacts.  This will lead to real savings in the longer term.  Voluntary and community organisations stand ready to help Councils find innovative solutions to these funding dilemmas."   

Anand Shukla, acting Chief Executive of Daycare Trust said:

 "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.

"The Government has allocated sufficient funding for the existing network of Sure Start Children's Centres to be maintained and has called for Britain to be the most family-friendly country in Europe. We understand Local Authorities have difficult decisions to make, but an investment in children and families is an investment in our society and in our future. Rather than close down these vital family services, we call upon Local Authorities to pursue all possible options for the sustainable delivery of these services. "

Frank Field MP, Government adviser on poverty and life chances said:

 "It is inconceivable that we can make the Foundation Years effective if Sure Start Children's Centres all over the place are being slaughtered. Local Authorities must seek to employ innovative methods to ensure families - especially the poorest families - do not lose the vital support they need."

The findings are released at a time when experts in the field of children and family policy including Frank Field MP and Graham Allen MP have demonstrated the importance of early intervention and the crucial role of Children's Centres in reversing the life chances of the most vulnerable families.

ENDS.


 

NOTES TO EDITORS

Recent quotes from Government Ministers in support of Sure Start Children's Centres: 

"The last Government concentrated its family support on children.  This resulted in a great innovation - Sure Start."
Prime Minister David Cameron, Speech on families and relationships to Relate, 10 December 2010.

"We have additionally ensured that there is enough money in the EIG [Early Intervention Grant] to maintain the existing network of Sure Start Children's Centres..."
Education Secretary, Michael Gove MP, letter to Local Authorities, 13 December 2010

 "Our support during the critical early years, especially for disadvantaged families through an improved Sure Start programme, is explicitly intended to have an impact on future fairness. There is no more potent investment in the future than investment in the early years."
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. 09, Sep 2010

Further information, interviews and case studies are available on request. Please contact Julie Evans (4Children) 020 7522 6928/07917 870641 or Veronica King (Daycare Trust) 020 7940 7525/07796 886 648 .

Methodology
The survey of Children's Centre Managers took place between Thursday 20th and Tuesday 25th January 2011 following an email to Centre Managers listed on the Family Information Service (FIS) / Directgov database.   A total of 917 Children's Centre Managers took part in the survey using surveymonkey.com.  Figures were then extrapolated to understand the impact the results would have for the 3,578 Centres across England.  For further information on the methodology and calculations contact 4Children on 020 7522 6991. 

Best Practice
4Children and Daycare Trust are calling on Local Authorities to do more to prioritise funding for Sure Start Children's Centres. Hertfordshire Country Council has recently announced its commitment to keeping all 82 of its Children's Centres across the county open.

Lead Member for Children's Services at Hertfordshire County Council, Jane Pitman, said: "All our children's centre staff are acutely aware that their biggest challenge is to continue to make sure services are reaching vulnerable and disadvantaged families to meet their needs. Despite acute financial pressures, Hertfordshire County Council has been determined to give a high priority to maintain full coverage of children's centres using the Early Intervention Grant to ensure the centres thrive and continue to be a lifeline for hundreds of parents and carers with young children."

4Children
4Children is the national children and families charity which develops, influences and shapes national policy on all aspects of children, young people and families lives and works with a wide range of partners to deliver real support for children and families in their community. It is one of the largest not for profit Children's Centre providers in the country.

4Children is recognised as one of the leading champions for Children's Centres.   ‘Shout out for a sure start' is a national campaign run by 4Children dedicated to promoting and supporting the unique role Sure Start Children's Centres can play in supporting young children and their families.  The charity also provides the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Sure Start Group of MPs.   For further information, visit wwwshoutoutforasurestart.org.uk.

Daycare Trust

Daycare Trust is the national childcare charity, campaigning for quality affordable accessible childcare for all and raising the voices of children, parents and carers.  We advise parents and carers, providers, employers, trade unions and policymakers on childcare issues. 

Daycare Trust runs an Information Line  on 0845 872 6251, open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10.00am-1.00pm and 2.00pm-5.00pm, Wed 2.00pm-5.00pm (only). Parents can also visit www.daycaretrust.org.uk and www.payingforchildcare.org.uk for information.


1. Based on a conservative average of 244 families using each Centre.  32% of survey respondents said their Centre catered for 150+  families; a further 52% said it was 300+.  

2.The percentage of staff at each Centre issued with an ‘at risk notice' varied.