In this guest post, activist Jess Tomlinson details the draconian cuts inflicted on England’s Children’s Centres and calls for help to reverse the decline.
Children’s Centre across England are facing their most devastating cuts since they were first established in the late 1990’s. During the present parliament Children’s Centres have already seen their funding decline by at least 30% (Waldegrave, H (2013) Centres of excellence, Policy Exchange, London.)
Overall, local authorities in England reduced spending on children’s centres, young people’s and family support services by over £958 million in real terms in 2015-16, compared to 2010-11, which represents a 31% reduction. This amounts to a total spending cut of more than £2.4 billion over six years (childsociety.org). These services are vital to families that are already struggling with the effects of austerity.
New child poverty statistics were released in January 2018 by The Campaign To End Child Poverty and data shows that child poverty is rising with most local authorities having a third of children living in poverty however some local authorities are reported to have at least 50% of their children living in poverty. It’s 2018 and we are one of the most developed and richest countries in the world yet we have an estimated 4 million children living in conditions we should all be ashamed of. That’s 9 children out of every classroom of 30 that are now considered to be living in poverty.
Sure Start Local Programmes were introduced in the late 90’s in the most deprived areas of need to tackle the plague of poverty that was sweeping across our nation and it was so popular and effective. They were a big hit, however it was clear that this service should be made available to all children so in 2002 the then Labour government announced it’s plans to open 3,500 Children’s Centre across England.
That target was met and in that time we also saw 800,000 children lifted out of poverty (Child Poverty Action Group). Early intervention is key when dealing with the issues that cause child poverty and Children’s Centres are on the frontline in delivering such intervention.
Child poverty isn’t the only problem these amazing centres and their staff tackle on a daily basis. They are highly skilled professionals and the experience they have gained over the years has enabled them to better the lives of many families that are dealing with issues that don’t discriminate between rich and poor. Problems like domestic violence, post natal depression, SEND etc can affect anyone. When families welcome a new baby that baby needs to be weighed to keep an eye on their growth, they need to be monitored for any developmental delays and so many more things that you just don’t know about unless you have the training and the skills.
The new model being pushed by councils is being marketed as a model that brings together services and makes them more accessible to everyone rather than just those with small children and babies. That would mean the end of any kind of council funded service dedicated to Early Years services. It has been well established since the introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework that Early Years education and services are just as important as hospitals or schools.
Those hours spent working with families in the early days will mean saving so much more later down the line. Think of it this way the family it costs £5 to support at preschool age increases to cost to the education system £8 if there is no intervention until age 6, £15 at age 11 and so on. The later the intervention comes in a child’s life the more the financial cost not to mention the impact and cost to mental health, family stability, ability to enter the workplace as an adult, etc.
Parents have been fighting against these cuts locally and now we’ve joined forces and launched a nation campaign to protect these vital services. We have several counties pulling together and on the search for parents to join in and see how they can get involved. We want children to show us what they think of the centres by sending us in some of their cool art work that remind them of the centres and the staff that run them. We want parents to tell us what the centres mean to them and how they’ve been helped by them. Together we can show how important Children’s Centres & Early Years services are and we can fight for the right of every child to have the best start in life.
Please join us today on Facebook
And sign & share the petition too.
Jess Tomlinson, Alka Dass-Hundal, Nicky Massey, Liz Blackshaw & Diane Harte
National Save Our Children’s Centres Campaign
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