Children's centres consultation to launch in summer

By Jess Brown

| 14 March 2016

A consultation on the future of children's centres will now launch in the summer, at least six months behind schedule, it has been announced.

The government has said that the role of children's centres will be considered as part of its Life Chances Strategy. Picture: NTI

The consultation had been due to launch in autumn 2015, but speaking in the House of Lords, government education minister Lord Nash confirmed that it will be linked to the development of the government’s Life Chances Strategy.

“The government is considering its future policy on children’s centres as part of the development of the cross-government Life Chances Strategy, and plans to publish details in the summer,” he said.

“At that point we will make it clear how stakeholders and members of the public can contribute.”

A consultation on the future of children’s centres was first announced in July last year by childcare minister Sam Gyimah.

Speaking at the time, Gyimah said the consultation would launch in autumn 2015, and would focus on making sure children's centres are set up to have the best impact on children's lives and maximise support to families.

However in January CYP Now revealed that the consultation had been delayed.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, has said that government must safeguard the future of children's centres.

“Despite significant funding cuts, children’s centres remain a vital source of support for children and families, and so it is important that the government provides more information soon about the role they will play in the Life Chances Strategy," he said.

“Given that the upcoming consultation into the future of children’s centres will be integral to this, it is disappointing that there has been such a delay in its publication.”

Jan Tallis, chief executive of School-Home Support, said it is positive that government is looking at the future of children's centres as part of a holistic review of support to both children and parents.

"With various departments working together, we hope that the plans will compliment each other, rather than working in silos and to different agendas, although proof will ultimately be in the detail." she said.

However, June O’Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation, said that the announcement shows that the government is “disconnected” from the early years sector.

“The importance of the life chances of children has already been identified in the two-year-old [free childcare] offer and the three-and four-year old offer,” she said.

“The government has shown it is not prepared to fund the 30-hours [policy of free childcare per week for three- and four-year-olds] properly, so this doesn’t make sense whatsoever."

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