Cuts raise concern over future of Sure Start centres

Managers of the government's Sure Start Centres are concerned about the programme's future in light of public spending cuts, the National Audit Office (NAO) has found.

The government has pledged to roll out the Sure Start programme, which aims to improve health and wellbeing among children in disadvantaged areas, in every community by 2010.

However, in a report presented to the Children, Schools and Families select committee the NAO highlighted that many centre managers were concerned about the future of the programme in the current economic climate.

It outlined that while the centres' overall financial performance has improved since 2006 the centres and local authorities have concerns about the programme's future security.

In particular, many managers felt the centres ‘could lose out' and would if the ring-fence around the centre funding was removed.

'They were concerned that children's centres had not yet had time to demonstrate impact, and that local authorities might prioritise the more established services, that they were more familiar with,' the report says.

The report also suggests that Sure Start Centres are still failing to reach the most disadvantaged families, despite additional government funding for 2008/9 to 2010/11 for that purpose.

The extra funding was intended to pay for two extra ‘outreach workers' in each centre in the most disadvantaged communities. However, the report found that staff spent just 38 hours a week on outreach work.

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