Sure Start transforms lives forever. It is one of Labour’s greatest ever achievements and it is under brutal attack by the Tories. Labour Friends of Sure Start believes that the future of our Children’s Centres should be a key issue in this Leadership contest. So we wrote to every candidate for Leader and Deputy Leader of the Party asking their vision for Sure Start. We are publishing their responses this week. Today it is the turn of Deputy Leadership candidate Rushanara Ali.
Sure Start was one of the most important initiatives introduced by the last Labour government, designed to give young families and children the support they need in pre-school years. We know from experience that inequality starts at an early age in many of our communities and this is especially true in my own constituency where I have campaigned alongside local families to stop the closures of nurseries and Sure Start Centres. For example, our Save Our Nurseries campaign locally involving thousands of local parents successful prevented the closure of four local children’s centres working mainly with children with disabilities.
I am a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sure Start Centres and will continue to fight for the fantastic services and support they provide. I came into politics to make a difference, where better is there to start than ensuring that all children get the best chance in life possible – Sure Start is a vital part of the kit in delivering this.
Across our country, the Coalition Government closed down over 600 Sure Start centres. Many other centres also now operate with reduced opening hours and services. This cannot go on unchecked. Looking to the future, I believe that we should build on the success of Sure Start and move to open them up to more services, ensuring their place as a valued community and family hub.
During the 2015 General Election campaign Tristram Hunt, in his role as Shadow Education Secretary, said that we should allow the centres to open up their doors to charities and local childcare providers. This would not only help to drive down the costs of childcare but the extra activity would help to build and expand the services offered. Even in what are difficult times for our cherished public services, we should continue to support and encourage this approach which will help local Sure Start Centres promote and expand their services.
Whether elected as deputy leader or not my belief that Sure Start really delivers will remain and I will continue to fight for it.