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Exclusive research by the national family charity, 4Children, reveals that despite significant cuts within local authority budgets, and the removal of the dedicated Sure Start grant, a picture of resilience and creativity has been found among children’s centres.
Over 500 Sure Start Children’s Centres responded to a census conducted to gauge their financial viability, their service delivery, their role in delivering childcare, their staffing and their views of the future demands and challenges.
Despite a difficult environment and fears over mass closure, local authorities have seen children’s centres as a positive investment and sought to retain them where possible. This backing, and a strong belief in their value by the communities they serve, have led to centres standing on firm ground in the short term.
However, despite the continuing success of Sure Start Children’s Centres, 4Children must warn that without national and local governments’ sustained monitoring and solid funding arrangements, centres’ impressive fortitude in the face of budget cuts may not be sustainable in the long run.
With increasing pressure to find new places for two-year-olds, the potential of children's centres to meet that need should be maximized.
These concerns are further compounded by the fact that:
As a result of the census, 4children are recommending that:
Commenting upon the Sure Start Children’s Centres Census 2012, Anne Longfield OBE, Chief Executive of 4Children said:
The importance and value of Sure Start Children’s Centres is clear. Children’s centres across the country have demonstrated resilience and creativity, and enjoy overwhelming support from professionals working within the sector, parents and communities.
Now must be a time for development, not decline. There is huge potential for Children’s Centres to play their full part in delivering early help and intervention. The task is enormous and it is essential that local and central government continue to provide sustained funding.
Gains made must not be lost. Children’s centres must now be put at the heart of delivering early help and intervention. It is for local authorities, professionals and communities to come together and nurture the potential of Sure Start Children’s Centres across the 0-19 age range.
The framework being proposed by Professor Sir Michael Marmot, at University College London, supplies tools to highlight current good practice, strengthen the already huge potential of children’s centres and build in vital monitoring which serves the public and those designing future services.
Children’s centres must be seen as a crucial part of a new approach in targeting services towards the vital early years in a child’s life, years that form the foundation for future health, wellbeing and social mobility.”
Notes to Editors
Sure Start Children’s Centres Census 2012
Between Wednesday 14 March and Friday 20 April 2012, 4Children undertook an online survey with Children’s Centre staff working in centres across England. Surveys were sent to all Children’s Centres listed on the Directgov website’s database of Sure Start Children’s Centre database, as of March 2012 .
Responses were received from 578 centres in 133 local authorities, representing a response rate of 16% nationally. A review of existing literature relating to current trends in Sure Start Children’s Centres was undertaken to supplement the primary research.
The 4Children Children’s Centre Census can be viewed here
4Children is the national charity all about children and families. We have spearheaded a joined-up, integrated approach to children’s services and work with a wide range of partners around the country to ensure children and families have access to the services and support they need in their communities. We run Sure Start Children’s Centres as well as family and youth services across Britain.
We develop, influence and shape national policy on all aspects of the lives of children, young people and families. As the Government’s strategic partner for early years and childcare we have a crucial role in co-producing policy with the Department of Education and representing the sector’s views and experiences. Our national campaigns, like Give Me Strength, change policy and practice and put the needs of children and families on the political and policy agenda.
For more information visit www.4children.org.uk