Children centre cuts leaving families with no help

A new report by UK charity Action for Children has argued that budget cuts for UK children’s centres his leaving many unable to continue to reach families across their communities.

Despite the important role they play, children’s centres have faced years of budget cuts and closures as local authorities face falling funding from central government. The research found that the average children’s centre spending by councils fell from £532 to £412 per child between 2015 and 2018, with the estimated number of children using children’s centres in England falling by 18 per cent over the same period.

Furthermore, the number of children using children’s centres in the most deprived local council areas fell by 22 per cent with the analysis suggesting an association between the average developmental gap shrinking in areas where children’s centre use has increased, and a widening of the gap in areas where their use has fallen.

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “Children’s centres have seen their budgets slashed by almost two-thirds since 2010. This has left them unable to continue to reach families across communities, leaving many thousands of new parents with nowhere to turn for early help support - a far cry from the idea of easily-accessible, one-stop-shops within pram-pushing distance.

“From helping parents manage difficult behaviour and embed routines for their children, there are few things with which they’re not equipped to help. Crucially, they’re often the first place to identify serious issues like abuse and neglect and step in before problems spiral out of control.  

“The government must use the forthcoming Spending Review to allocate additional funding to local councils and ease the squeeze on children’s centre budgets. Giving children the best start in life is not only the right thing to do but helps to reduce the need for costly child protection services for when things go wrong.”

Tracy Brabin, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Early Years, said: “The Tories have slashed funding to local government, and vital services like children’s centres are being lost across the country, with the poorest areas hit the hardest.

“These regressive and unjustifiable cuts have led to hundreds of thousands of children and families losing out on the support that children’s centres can offer. The next Labour government will invest in our children and their families, including an extra £500 million in ring-fenced funding for Sure Start.”

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