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 Stella Creasy.
Surestart, like the minimum wage, the NHS and equality legislation, stand as testament to Labour’s capacity to change the political landscape. Without us, the concept of early years provision would not exist – and the pledges made by Tories on childcare reflect the way in which it has redefined our understanding of the role of the state in social justice. At its best, Sure Start’s intensive work with parents alongside childcare provision in our most deprived areas, can be truly transformative. Working with the whole family to help build the knowledge, skills and confidence of parents, it has supported them to overcome the challenges they face. This isn’t about buildings but people – in Walthamstow the work done to reach out to communities wary of state institutions has revolutionised their experience of public services.
This whole family ethos is at the heart of what makes Sure Start so effective. But over the last five years we’ve seen moves by the Conservatives to turn the clock back, reducing Surestart to a core of childcare provision alone. Combined with cuts to children’s centres, a shortage of qualified staff and rising cost of childcare mean once again the future of Surestart as a family focused project is at risk as the pressure is to cut corners not collaborate. So too the calls are growing to expand the network to support work with older children, recognising the value of continuing this approach throughout a child’s life.
With resources tight, Labour must fight not only to keep the principle but the practice of building such services around families, linking in budgets and service providers to create wrap around care for all. We need to be bold in putting Surestart at the centre of a progressive agenda for families where no child is held back by the size of their family’s bank balance. Ours is the first generation that will see the benefits of Labour’s foresight in creating Surestart- let us not be the last.
Photo source: http://walthamstow.networkmaker.org/