On the 13th July Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah announced that he was launching a consultation into children’s centres as he felt that “not enough centres were good or outstanding”.
7 weeks later and we have been given no further information since what seems like an opening precursor to dismantling the network of children’s centres created by Labour.
LFoSS called the Department of Education to find out when this consultation will begin and end and were told that they knew as much as the public – almost nothing. The man on the phone stated that:
“If they had more information it would have been announced in the press release
They are only able to talk about existing policy
There is no number that you can call to get more information, all the public will have access to the information at the same time.”
It begs the question as to how serious the government is about children’s centres when they announce that their future is to be reviewed having not figured out basic details like when exactly it will commence and end.
LFoSS and many others are also very concerned about the fact that Sam has starved children centres of funding before simply announcing that too many aren’t good enough. Many of these concerns were raised at our recent event; Ben Thomas noted:
“Where you are seeing constant restructuring, you’re seeing constant cuts, you’re seeing an uncertain future, you’re seeing services delivered on diminished resources with a greater number of families needing support from Sure Start centres – it’s no surprise that centres are under strain.”
Sharon also highlighted the fact that at least 35% of budget cuts might be the cause of a lowering of quality in centres. Adding that maybe Sam should consider that “it’s his policies, and policies of his predecessors and the Conservative government that have done such damage to Children’s centres – wasting perhaps the most vital resource that we have to boost the life chances of children from every community.”
They’re 100% correct; councils have had to introduce many cost saving measures to high quality centres, such as shifting the balance from universal services to targeted services, adopting the hub and spoke model, reducing staff, putting just one manager in charge of multiple centres and more.
We hope that Sam Gyimah will soon provide the public the public with relevant details about this consultation and recognise how hard children’s centres have been hit by his cuts.