Pace of children's centre closures accelerates

By Neil Puffett

| 09 December 2016

Increasing numbers of children's centres are closing, with nearly twice as many shutting in 2015 than in the previous year, the government has confirmed.

Children's centre closures increased by 83.5 per cent in 2015. Picture: NTI

Figures released following following a parliamentary question by Labour MP Dan Jarvis show that 156 Sure Start children's centres closed in 2015, compared with 85 in 2014 - an increase of 83.5 per cent.

Government statistics, which were revealed in response to Jarvis's question by childcare minister Caroline Dinenage, show that in 2013 there were 33 closures.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, described the figures as "worrying".

"Children's centres are a vital source of advice and practical support for families - especially those more disadvantaged families - and so for so many to be disappearing at a time when there is so much government rhetoric on 'closing the gap' and improving children's life chances seems completely contradictory," he said.

"Worse still, a growing number of those children's centres that remain open are unable to offer much more than a skeleton service due to lack of adequate funding, meaning that even more vulnerable families are finding it difficult to access the support they need.

"This is clearly not a sustainable situation and so we urge the government to set out its - now long overdue - strategy for securing the future of children's centres as a matter of priority."

Government figures published in September show that councils intend to spend around £90m less on children's centres in 2016/17 than they did in 2015/16.

In April CYP Now revealed that in excess of 1,000 children's centres had either been closed, or downgraded to a degree that they no longer met the criteria to be called a children's centre, since 2010.

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