Children’s centres may face axe under cuts

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THE future of Wigan’s children’s facilities is still uncertain following the announcement that 250 Sure Start centres will be closed.

Research by 4Children and the Daycare Trust found that 250 Sure Start centres were likely to face the axe because of the coalition government’s budget cuts.

As a result, an estimated 60,000 families will be affected by the closures, more than half the existing centres will provide a reduced service and nearly nine out of every 10 centres will have a decreased budget.

But Wigan Council was today, still unable to determine the future of its 24 Sure Start centres. Last November, Nick Hudson, Wigan’s director of children and young people’s service, told the Evening Post: “Whilst Wigan is committed to investing in the Early Years, it is not possible for the council to determine the level of that financial commitment until the final grant settlement is known.”

The centres provide a range of services and activities for children under the age of five and their families, proving support for parents.

The coalition’s comprehensive spending review protected funding for Sure Start children’s centres – but removed the ringfencing requirement which forced local authority to spend the money on them.

Children’s charities and early years experts are calling for local authorities to take action and protect its services.

Anne Longfield, 4Children chief executive, said: “Local authorities need to find new ways to ensure Sure Start children’s centres ‘earn their keep’ by allowing them to become genuine hubs for all children and families services in communities; reducing replication and improving impacts,

“Voluntary and community organisations stand ready to help councils find innovative solutions to these funding dilemmas.”

Labour MP Frank Field, who advises the government on poverty and life chances, said; “Local authorities must seek to employ innovative methods to ensure families – especially the poorest families – do not lose the vital support they need.”