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The number of Sure Start children’s centres closed in the last year doubled on the year before, according to figures released by the Government.
The figures, released in response to a question from Labour MP Dan Jarvis, shows 156 children’s centres closed in 2015, compared to 85 in 2014, 33 in 2013, 27 in 2012, 12 in 2011 and 0 in 2010.
Sure Start is a government programme, set up by Labour, which provides a range of support services for parents and children under the age of four, who live in disadvantaged areas across the UK. It aims to support parents from pregnancy and to give children the best start in life.
The Government says many councils are merging centres to allow services to be delivered “more efficiently”. It says any closure decision must show that children will not be adversely affected.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “It is very worrying to see that such a significant number of children’s centres across the country are continuing to close.
“Children’s centres are a vital source of advice and practical support for families – especially those more disadvantaged families – and so for so many to be disappearing at a time when there is so much government rhetoric on ‘closing the gap’ and improving children’s life chances seems completely contradictory.
“Worse still, a growing number of those children’s centres that remain open are unable to offer much more than a skeleton service due to lack of adequate funding, meaning that even more vulnerable families are finding it difficult to access the support they need.
“This is clearly not a sustainable situation and so we urge the government to set out its – now long overdue – strategy for securing the future of children’s centres as a matter of priority.”