Sefton Central Labour MP, Bill Esterson called on the government to guarantee its funding for 19 Sure Start Centres in an important debate in Parliament today.
Bill called on the Lib Dem minister to reconsider the government’s approach which leaves councils to decide which services to keep and which to cut in spite of commitments from both Conservative and Lib Dem parties before the election to guarantee Sure Start Children’s Centres.
The minister had told MPs that the government was committed to Sure Start and that it understood the importance of Children’s Centres for families of young children. The minister also said that the evidence showed that Children’s Centres made a difference to the lives of children and that the government wanted to continue the centres. However, the minister also said that decisions should be made by local councils.
Bill Esterson said: “I agree with the minister that Children’s Centres do a vital job for children and I agree that local councils should decide how services are run. But unless the money is guaranteed, councils can't afford to run Children’s Centres and all of the other vital services which the government says it supports.
"It's time for the government to reconsider and to guarantee the money to councils. Then they can run the services which are most important to their communities."
Bill said that his family had used a Children’s Centre when his son was younger.
The Labour MP said: “We benefited from the support we received and I know from first hand experience just how important Children’s Centres are. I also know from the families who used the centre at the same time as us that children in the same family made different progress depending on whether the family had been able to go to the Children’s Centre.
"The older children who missed out because the Children’s Centre was not yet open, have not made the same progress as the younger ones. That shows the value of Children’s Centres right here at Hudson Primary School, at Thornton Children’s Centre, at Holy Rosary Primary School and at Freshfield and Valewood Children’s Centres.
"Children do better in life when their families have been able to use children’s centres and the government should recognise the difference that Children’s Centres make and guarantee the funding for all existing Children’s Centres rather than forcing councils like Sefton to choose between services for children. Youth clubs or services to older people and the disabled.
"I gave the minister every chance to change her mind today and she refused. The Lib Dems and their Tory allies should be ashamed."