Apparently this idea comes from a Tory think tank called ‘Bright Blue’. It doesn’t seem so bright to This Writer.
Firstly, there is the question of whether sending a young child to pre-school education is worth it, both in terms of the youngster’s development and the expenses incurred by the parent. What’s the point of having child benefit if pre-school education costs more?
Secondly, there is the fact that Sure Start centres are being closed by the Conservative Government. It seems that more than 700 have been closed between May 2010, when the Conservatives took office as part of the Coalition Government, and February this year.
Labour has predicted that Conservative Government policies will lead to the closure of 1,000 more by 2020.
It is against this background that the ‘Bright Blue’ proposal to sanction parents if they don’t send their child to Sure Start centres must be measured.
It’s nonsense, isn’t it?
Parents should be denied child benefit if they do not send their children to pre-school education from the age of three, according to an increasingly influential Conservative pressure group.
The penalty should apply to a parent in the case of a child aged two if the toddler comes from a disadvantaged background, the new counter-poverty strategy suggests.
The proposed loss of child benefit is set out in a pamphlet by Bright Blue, a liberal Conservative pressure group and thinktank, and is designed to ensure disadvantaged children go to Sure Start centres to make them ready for school.
Bright Blue says it is essential to seek new ways to persuade parents to send their children to Sure Start centres.
It argues that just as the government is planning to withdraw child benefit from parents of truanting children, so the same disincentives should apply to parents that do not take up the opportunity of free pre-school education. Ministers have said they are doubling the amount of free pre-school childcare or education to 30 hours a week.
The proposal is bound to be attacked by Labour as another assault on the poor and comes in the wake of controversy over the loss of tax credits. A survey last year by a children’s charity found that many Sure Start centre face closure because of budget cuts with £830m less being spent on them in the three years from 2011-12.
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