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 Angela Eagle.
Sure Start was one of the proudest achievements not only of the last Labour government but of any Labour government. My visits to Sure Start centres in Wallasey were always some of the most moving for me. To see women who had been isolated and depressed find their confidence alongside their developing babies in some of the poorest areas in my constituency was a powerful reminder of the impact political decisions can have on people’s lives. That’s what makes the huge cuts to these services such a bitter pill to swallow.
Just one day before his election as Prime Minister in 2010, David Cameron vowed to back Sure Start, saying that Gordon Brown had been ‘scaremongering’ when he questioned Tory commitment to the plan. Three years later, David Cameron pre-election pledge on Sure Start became one of those famously deleted from the Conservatives’ website because it was too embarrassing to recall. Since then, Cameron has allowed Sure Start to be slashed and burned.
Thousands of Sure Start centres were created by Labour. And now many hundreds have already closed thanks to the Tories, when the statutory requirement for the centres to provide childcare was taken away. Many more are running drastically reduced services. These empty centres cost money while they lie vacant, and they represent a massive missed opportunity. Sure Start should be supported by government, not hollowed out by it.
A Labour government, if elected just a few weeks ago, would have doubled the number of Sure Start childcare places to 118,000. At a time when we are facing even starker cuts, it is likely that we will see Sure Start cut further to the bone. Labour’s pledge to end child poverty wasn’t only about benefits and transfers – it was about tackling poverty at its source. If I am elected Deputy Leader, I will make it my mission to try and rebuild a service which provides hope for the most vulnerable in our society.
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