Government to blame for 'unacceptable' children's centre cuts, say childcare leaders

By Jess Brown

| 20 April 2016

The number of children's centres at risk of closure is "unacceptable", and will hit vulnerable children the hardest, early years leaders have said.

Cuts to children's centres will hit the most vulnerable children the hardest, experts say. Picture: Arlen Connelly

Figures published by CYP Now on Tuesday show that at least 400 children’s centres in England are at risk of closure or being downgraded as a result of council funding cuts.

However, Denise Burke, chair of Poppy and Jacks nursery group, described the figures as just the “tip of the iceberg”.

“Sadly, even more closures will follow,” she said. “The actions of local authorities are shameful, but it is this government that must take the rap. It is unacceptable and inexcusable.”

Burke added that the delayed consultation on the future of children's centres, which has been pushed back from autumn last year until this summer, has given local authorities the “green light to abandon centres and the services they provide to children and families”.
CYP Now also reported that at least 32 local authorities have made proposals to either close, "de-designate", or review the future of children's centres in the last 12 months.
June O'Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation, said that the findings highlight the need for government to develop a more co-ordinated policy for children’s centres that takes into account their role in supporting the most disadvantaged families.

“We have many reasons to support family engagement and we’re closing down children’s centres – where is the logic there?” she said.

“It doesn’t make any sense. Effectively, what we need to do is here is think in a logical, rational way.

“We know that it is the most vulnerable children who are most likely to be affected by this.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said he was concerned by the figures.

“What may seem like a cost-cutting measure in the short term is likely to have a long-lasting effect on children and families, and so it is vital that local and central government work together to look at how to tackle this trend, and ensure that those families that are in most need of support have access to it,” he said.

Michael Pavey, director of Labour Friends of Sure Start, said the news is “even worse than we feared”.

“Children's centres are now teetering on a precipice. Demand keeps rising but the government keeps slashing funding. It is the comprehensive dismantling of the Sure Start model and it is utterly wrong,” he said.

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