ELECTION 2010 ISSUE – What do you think? Leave comments below.

GRAHAM STUART MP has voted against a Parliamentary Committee Report that calls for more time to be given to prove that Sure Start Children’s Centres are working.

The Sure Start programme aims to deliver the best possible start in life for every child. There are 3,500 Sure Start Children’s Centres across the country including the one in George Street, Hedon. However, future funding for the £1.4 billion a year programme could now be under threat.

Sure Start Children’s Centres provide easy access to a range of community health services, parenting and family support, outreach services, integrated early education and childcare, and links to training and employment opportunities for over 2.5 million families with children under five years old. They are a key part of the current Government’s strategy to end child poverty.

But the report published by the House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee has expressed concerns about the future of the programme which may suffer under anticipated cutbacks in public spending. It is feared that the number of Children’s Centres could be cut or the range of  services provided by them cut back. The Report states:

It is essential that Children’s Centres are given time to prove their worth. Some Centres are not open yet and the majority of those that are open have been in place for less than four years. It would be catastrophic if Children’s Centres were not afforded long-term policy stability and security of funding while evaluation is ongoing.”

The Report states that the Sure Start programme as a whole is one of the most innovative and ambitious Government initiatives of the past two decades. Committee chairman Barry Sheerman said:

To put at risk the pioneering work of the last 12 years would be nothing short of a disaster. The early years are when the greatest difference can be made to a child’s life chances and it is vital that investment in children’s centres is allowed to bear fruit.”

However Graham Stuart, despite taking a full and active role in the Children, Schools and Families Committee, was the only member to vote against the report. During the Committee deliberations the MP had quizzed those giving evidence for their expert views on whether a more targetted approach concentrating resources on a smaller number of Children Centres would be more beneficial.

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