Early years cuts ‘shortsighted', says shadow minister

By Jess Brown

| 21 July 2015

Cuts to children's centres are "shortsighted" and will increase child poverty, Sharon Hodgson, shadow children and families minister, has said.

Cuts to early years services will make child poverty worse, Labour has warned

Hodgson, who was appointed the Labour early years spokesperson last month, said that cuts to local authority early years budgets that have led to a fall in the number of children's centres will “store up problems for the future that will cost far more”.

Hodgson, speaking at the launch of a report by the Office of the Children's Commissioner for England (OCC) into tackling poverty in the early years, said: "There are 800 fewer designated children's centres than there were before, and funding is 56 per cent less than it was five years ago. That's huge."

Hodgson said the cuts were particularly concerning in light of the government's proposals to repeal most of the Child Poverty Act and replace it with the Life Chances Act, which will use different measures to test child poverty, including educational attainment.

“We all know what child poverty looks like and we all know what the consequences of child poverty are," she said.

“It’s no good just talking about it in the abstract, you’ve actually got to do something about it in real time and transform these children's lives. We can't just keep arguing about incomes and outputs and outcomes and child poverty measures.

"We must decide as a nation we’re going to do something and start to eradicate it, otherwise the cycle will continue.”

The OCC’s report, which draws on research from 10 local authorities as well as the views of parents and children, states that it is “admirable” that the government is seeking to address child development and educational achievement, but that “further work is needed”.

“Poverty cannot be tackled by measuring only things that affect it and not poverty itself,” it concludes. 

Hodgson, the Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, previously held the shadow children and families brief between October 2010 and October 2013.

To read what charities think about the government's proposed changes to child poverty measures, click here or see the latest issue of CYP Now.

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