As many as 1,000 'life-saving' Sure Start centres for young children and families have closed across the UK since 2009
According to a report published today by University of Oxford academics, closures of Sure Start centres are thought to be twice as many as the government has reported. It comes at a time when local authorities, faced with funding cuts, are struggling to provide support for vulnerable children and families.
According to Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the education and social mobility foundation, Sutton Trust: "Good quality early years provision makes a substantial difference in the development of children, especially those who come from the poorest homes. Thousands of families are missing out on the vital support they provide."
Released today, our latest research ‘Stop Start’ reveals as many as 1,000 Sure Start centres have closed since 2009 – twice as many as the government have reported #SureStart https://t.co/e5M9QCsyjq pic.twitter.com/p2Y0gbB3Gr— The Sutton Trust (@suttontrust) April 5, 2018
It emerged earlier this week that spending on children and young people’s services has been axed by nearly £1 billion, over the past six years. These funding cuts mean access to early years provision varies widely across the country; the report warns that closures are creating a "postcode lottery" for young families.
It’s not just the number of centres that has been affected by the funding cuts, either. Many of the remaining centres are only able to offer a fraction of the services they once did. And, with more authorities are set to make drastic cuts this year, this has prompted concerns that thousands of families are missing out on "lifeline" support.
We spoke to one mother, Emily, who accessed her local Sure Start centre in 2016 with her daughter.
"Sure Start enabled me to meet mums in the local area. Being a new mum can be overwhelming and meeting someone you can talk to, who is experiencing what you are, helps you to cope with all of the changes in your life at that time. The family support workers were amazing at offering advice and helping with any concerns I had.
I signed up for baby massage and baby sensory courses, which me and my daughter both benefited from. They aren’t something I would have done privately, so I’m really thankful for the opportunity the centre gave us."
"I feel really angry that centres are closing. They were a lifeline for me and, without them, I really worry that new parents will really struggle. For my friends who have had babies since the closures started, some of them struggle to afford private courses. It means they’re unable to meet parents going through a similar experience to them."
UK charity Action for Children has announced today that thay have launched a petition to ask the Government to take urgent action to address the disappearing system. For more information or to sign the petition, visit the charity’s website.
As many as 1,000 Sure Start children’s centres across the country have closed since 2009 – twice as many as the government has reported. This is unacceptable, and children are being denied the best start in life. SIGN OUR PETITION FOR ACTION: https://t.co/UZA57AhlSC pic.twitter.com/Bk0cNrHiSS— Action for Children (@actnforchildren) April 5, 2018