Last year, only a petition from a quarter of a million people and an Early Day Motion signed by 93 MPs, in support of my Freedom of Information request, secured the release of information on the number of sickness benefit claimants who have died since 2011. Even then, the information was incomplete.
Before that, the Tories famously banned publication of an impact assessment report on their appalling plan to allow private firms to provide NHS services, in fear that the dire predictions it undoubtedly contained would bring the whole plan crashing to a halt. What a shame that didn’t happen.
In comparison, hiding a report among a glut of others released just before Christmas may seem positively outspoken.
But the impact on children is, as the Independent states, damning.
In the light of other criticisms of the Conservatives that have been publicised since Christmas – in only the last three days we’ve had Jeremy Hunt’s refusal to negotiate a reasonable deal with junior doctors, the plan to turf people on social housing out into the streets, use of EVEL to allow landlords to rent out houses that are unfit for habitation, the ongoing scandal of benefit-related deaths, using Universal Credit as a means of cutting in-work benefits, selling our national assets to foreign businesses and nationalised industries, lying to other countries about climate change, the ‘Big Brother’ surveillance Bill, the scandal of ‘revolving door’ jobs for ex-ministers in the industries they previously regulated (light-touch, obviously), the all-out attack on Parliamentary democracy and the funding of other political parties, the ineptitude over the recent floods, the great scandal over women’s pensions – one has to wonder:
Whatever possessed anybody in the UK electorate to vote for them?
A damning report which revealed the full extent of the harm done by funding cuts to children’s centres was among more than 400 statements, documents and reports quietly released by the Government just before Christmas.
A six-year study by Oxford University researchers highlighted how children’s centres – known as Sure Start – were making a difference in some of the poorest areas of the country, but have suffered acutely from cuts or restructuring.
The final report was agreed in August, but the Department for Education (DfE), which commissioned it, held back publication for months before quietly slipping it out on 17 December, along with hundreds of other statements, documents and reports.
The report identified various benefits for mothers and families who regularly attended children’s centres in poorer areas: improved mental health for mothers, better relations between parents and children, a less chaotic home life and enhanced home learning environments. In all cases, the impact was greater in centres with improved funding than in those with budget cuts.
Parents who did not engage with children’s centres showed the fewest positive outcomes.
The shadow Education Secretary, Lucy Powell, said: “We’ve had nothing but broken promises from this Government on Sure Start. There are now 763 fewer centres since 2010 and services are withering on the vine in many areas, so it’s no wonder that ministers hid this report by releasing it with so many others just before Christmas.”
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