THE BLOG

A New Future for Children's Centres?

10/02/2015 10:20 GMT | Updated 11/04/2015 10:59 BST

One of the biggest scandals of the last five years has been the way that Sure Start children's centres have been allowed to wither and die.

The previous Labour government created 3,500 centres around the country to offer a range of support and services for families with young children.

Since 2010 many of these centres have either closed or become ghost ships as funding has been cut.

Now the Labour Party says that these ghost ships could be revitalised by offering 50,000 childcare places.

It makes great economic and social sense to use this infrastructure properly. Many children's centres could offer more services to their local community with the right encouragement.

The Labour Party says that voluntary and private providers could move in and offer childcare at no extra cost to the public purse. The buildings are already there, and the cost of the childcare would be met by a combination of the free entitlement for two, three and four year olds and parents paying on top.

Families need more childcare to meet the rising demands from higher birth rates and more parents working. Providers can make good use of relatively new but under-used buildings. And the community wins by having more local childcare.

At the same time, more families using their local children's centre will boost the take-up of other services and support at that centre.

There could also be wider benefits. Some children's centres have opened their doors to local people of all ages as a way of bringing communities together. They may offer IT classes, a café, exercise sessions, cooking, gardening and other activities.

With more grandparents also helping with childcare for their grandchildren, there are real opportunities to bring older and younger people together. Their experience and knowledge can really help young parents.

So a win-win for all generations.

Let's end the waste of the last few years and support our communities through revitalised children's centres.