POLITICS

Sure Start Children's Centres Cut By A Third Under Tories, Labour Claims

FOI reveals fall in number of centres since 2010.

05/04/2017 09:08 | Updated 05 April 2017
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The Conservatives are responsible for a collapse in the number Sure Start children’s centres since 2010, Labour has said.

According to figures obtained by the party, there are now 1,240 fewer centres than when Labour left office - a fall of around 34%.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that over 230 centres have closed in the last year.

The north east and London have seen the biggest fall, according to the figures, with 40% of centres having closed.

And in Swindon and Solihull there are no centres left at all.

Jeremy Corbyn will highlight the figures today and is likely use the figures to accuse the Conservative Party of breaking its pledge to be “the most family friendly Government we’ve ever had”.

But the Department for Education disputed the figures and argued they did not take account of centres that had merged.

Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said it was a “scandal” and that “parents and children are paying the price”.

“The Tories claim they’re protecting Sure Start, but they’re not. They use tricky accounting methods - like pointing to buildings which are still open but which are running much reduced services – to try to pull the wool over people’s eyes,” she said.

“But the facts speak for themselves. On the same measure that was used in 2010, Sure Start has been slashed.”

“There are a third fewer designated centres than there were when the Tories came to office. We know that because we asked local authorities, those tasked with running these vital services, and that’s what they told us.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “These figures are misleading as they fail to account for children’s centres which are still offering vital services, but have been merged with other centres in the area to increase efficiency.

“If a council decides to close a children’s centre site, they must demonstrate that local children and families would not be adversely affected and local areas continue to have sufficient children’s centres to meet their needs.

“We are determined to ensure children get the best start in life and to help working families with the cost of childcare. That is why we are investing a record £6billion in childcare per year by 2020, which includes extra support for disadvantaged families.”

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