Lucy Powell, a former Shadow Education Secretary, asked an urgent question on the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report on Sure Start.
Rolled out in 1999 and reaching its funding peak in 2010, Sure Start centres provide early years support for families, providing information and support on health, employment, education and childcare. Initially targeting disadvantaged areas, the policy was expanded in the 2004 10-year Strategy for Childcare, and aimed for ‘a children’s centre in every community’.
The IFS report on Sure Start found that the programme "had major health benefits for children in poorer neighbourhoods", and significantly reduced the number of children hospitalised under the age of 11.
The IFS report also warns that funding cuts to the programme have led to centre closures.
Education Minister Anne Milton told the House:
"The Government very much welcomes the recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on the effects of Sure Start. It is crucial that, in our pursuit of better outcomes for children and families, and in making spending decisions, we are guided by high quality evidence and this report gives us more of that."
Lucy Powell followed up her question by urging the Government to fund local authorities so that they were more easily able to keep children's centres open, saying,
"The decimation of Sure Start has been a travesty and flies in the face of all the evidence that early intervention is key to tackling disadvantage. This must be reversed."
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