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Sure Start Children's Centres are one of the most important developments in recent years. We know that parents really value the services they provide.
Previously, the funding that Local Authorities received from central Government for Sure Start was ‘ring-fenced'. This means they had to spend it on Sure Start. In 2010 the Government decided to remove the ring-fence from around 80 specific grants, including the Sure Start grant, to give Local Authorities more flexibility about how they use their funding. It was announced that Sure Start funding would now fall under the new Early Intervention Grant which is £2.365 billion fpr 2012/13.
Even though the Grant is not ring-fenced, the Government has told Local Authorities that they should prioritise Sure Start. In December Sarah Teather MP, Minister for Children, wrote to Directors of Children's Services at Local Authorities, setting out their EIG allocations. In her letter, she set out two areas for prioritisation - the free early education entitlement, and Sure Start provision. The letter stated:
"There is enough money in the EIG to maintain the existing network of Sure Start Children's Centres, accessible to all but identifying and supporting families in greatest need. Local authorities continue to have duties under the Childcare Act 2006 to consult before opening, closing or significantly changing children's centres and to secure sufficient provision to meet local need."
Despite this encouragement from Government, Local Authorities face cuts of £28billion to their budgets over the next four years, and the removal of the ring-fence has left Sure Start centres across the country facing an uncertain future, as councils face tough decisions. Six centres have already closed outright, with a further 124 buildings also closing through reorganisations and mergers.
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