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Childcare Sure Start closures in the past decade are double the Tories' figures

THE number of children’s centres for poorer families that have closed in the past decade is double the figure given by the government, a new analysis has shown.

As many as 1,000 Sure Start children’s centres have been lost since 2009, when there were 3,632 centres, over half of them in disadvantaged areas, according to the study by the Sutton Trust.

Government data recorded a 14 per cent drop in centre numbers since August 2009, but the report found the total fall to be more than 30 per cent.

In areas where closures have been avoided, local authorities have nonetheless had to reduce services and staffing.

Shadow early years minister Tracy Brabin said Tory ministers “should be ashamed” that it had taken this report to expose “the true extent of the damage their policies have caused.”

Ms Brabin added: “Sure Start provides support and education for families who need it most, yet Conservative cuts have created a postcode lottery in Sure Start provision.
 
“Every child deserves a fair chance to succeed, which is why the next Labour government will end the Tory cuts and invest £500 million a year in Sure Start.”

Rossanna Trudgian of the Action for Children charity said the analysis provided further evidence that the government had “turned its back on” children’s centres, noting that they are “lifeline services that support families who are struggling.

“As the government continues to drag its feet on its long-promised consultation and services are hollowed out, tens of thousands of children and families who need support are being abandoned.

“This simply cannot continue and the government must address the funding gap for children’s services if we’re going to give all children the best start in life.”

The researchers say more local authorities are set to make drastic cuts this year. Financial pressures were found to be the main reason for 84 per cent of local authorities, with 69 per cent reporting a budget decrease in the last two years.

The Sutton Trust’s Peter Lampl said: “Good-quality early years provision makes a substantial difference in the development of children, especially those who come from the poorest homes.

“It is a serious issue that the services that Sure Start centres offer are much more thinly spread than they were a decade ago.  

“Thousands of families are missing out on the vital support they provide.”

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