A Labour Government will save Sure Start and double the number of childcare places provided at them to more than 118,000.
Labour will introduce a new statutory obligation on Sure Start to provide access to child care – as well as giving them new powers to open up their doors to charities and local providers so the whole community can use them.
The aim is to make the best use of these public buildings, re-establishing them as family hubs in the community and reaching more families than ever before. Labour says the alternative under a Tory second term – in which they have already signalled that they will cut schools budgets year-on-year – is a recipe for national decline.
The Government has allowed Sure Start centres to close or effectively be mothballed. This is disastrous for local communities at a time when childcare places are falling even though demand is greater than ever. Many providers say lack of space or affordable premises is the reason why they cannot set up or expand in an area.
“Sure Start was one of the greatest achievements of the last Labour government but, under the Tories, there are hundreds fewer while others have reduced services and opening hours,” said Tristram Hunt, Labour’s shadow education secretary.
“It is a scandal that these brilliant community assets are being mothballed or even closed at a time when parents are crying out for decent childcare in their communities.
“We will not succeed as country unless we ensure every child has a decent start in life.
“We will not succeed as a country if parents can’t get to work because they can’t get the childcare they need.
“We will not succeed as a country if we waste resources by allowing Sure Start centres to be idle, empty or even close.
“So we’re going to put the lights back on, get the kids back in and restore the founding purpose of Sure Start.”
He said: “This plan won’t cost money, it is purely a question of political will and leadership. The Government seems content to sit back and let Sure Start wither away. If the Tories win a second term, I fear Sure Start will disappear in many parts of our country and one of the great progressive programmes will be lost to the next generation. Labour created Sure Start. Labour cares about Sure Start. Labour will save Sure Start.”
This blog is no fan of Tristram Hunt – he’s an upper-middle-class oik playing at being a member of the Party of the People – but this pledge to restore Sure Start is a genuinely positive move and he is to be congratulated for it.
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