Sure Start centres ‘could be at risk’

Many local authorities are considering diverting funding allocated for early years, leading to possible closure of Sure Start centres and job losses, says the Daycare Trust. 

Many local authorities are considering diverting funding allocated for early years, leading to possible closure of Sure Start centres and job losses, says the Daycare Trust. 
The charity says this is despite the announcement this week of a new ‘Early Intervention Grant’. The Government says the grant is intended to give local areas "the freedom and flexibility to invest in early intervention".  It wants to see the money  go directly to vital frontline services, like Sure Start Children’s Centres, and says spending decisions should involve local professionals and communities. 
The grant includes resources for free early education for disadvantaged two year-olds, which will, subject to Parliamentary approval, be supported by a legislative entitlement from 2013; new investment in 4,200 extra health visitors; and money to support the existing network of Sure Start Children’s Centres, accessible to all but identifying and supporting families in greatest need. It says it has reiterated the statutory duties that local authorities have 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.
The Daycare Trust has welcomed the government’s commitment to early years, but fears local authorities may use the money for other purposes. Anand Shukla, acting Chief Executive of Daycare Trust, commented: “We welcome the Minister’s focus on the importance of the early years and are pleased to see a strong message being sent out from the government to local authorities regarding their expectations for this funding.
 "This allocation means that in theory, local authorities will be unable to justify reducing their Sure Start provision. However, Daycare Trust is gravely concerned by the early intelligence we are receiving which shows many local authorities are considering diverting some of this funding now that the ring-fence has been removed; leading to possible centres closures and job losses.  
"This explicit emphasis on two year old places and Sure Start is crucial to improving children’s life chances, and whilst it is excellent to see the government clearly recognise this, local authorities must now show their commitment too, by ensuring this money is spent where it belongs.”
 





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