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SURER START FOR 800,000 CHILDREN

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Children's minister Beverley Hughes today announced that the government's roll out of Sure Start Children's Centre ...
Children's minister Beverley Hughes today announced that the government's roll out of Sure Start Children's Centre had reached the 1,000 milestone early giving 800,000 small children the opportunity for a better start in life.

Since 1999, thousands of parents have accessed family health care; parenting support; early education and childcare; access to training and employment; all under one roof. Sure Start has already transformed the lives of thousands of parents and by 2010 there will be a Sure Start children's centre for every community - 3,500 in total.

Ms Hughes also announced plans to make sure that Sure Start is reaching more of the most disadvantaged families who may not be making use of the services from which they stand the most to gain. Building on last month's announcement of an enhanced role for Health Visitors in Sure Start, she set out:

-- a new requirement for every Sure Start Children's Centre to run a home visiting and outreach programme for parents of all new babies

-- a new requirement for Sure Start Children's Centres to evaluate the services that they provide and make sure they are responsive to the needs of the most disadvantaged groups

-- the importance of working with the community and voluntary sector whose expertise and skills will be vital in reaching these groups;

-- a wish to see parents who have had their lives improved by Sure Start spreading the message of Sure Start and what it has to offer

Ms Hughes said:

'I am delighted to announce that 1,000 Sure Start Children's Centres are now up and running ahead of the target date. Sure Start is one of this government's biggest success stories. Before 1999, parents of very young children had little or nothing in the way of support. Now we are seeing all the services parents need being offered in their community and under one roof. That is what modern public services should be all about.

'By 2010 there will be a children's centre in every community - that's 3,500 in total. But we know that some families don't feel comfortable walking through the door, even though they could use the help most. This doesn't mean Sure Start has failed or that it is just for the poorest or most excluded families but it does mean that we must all work harder.

'I have made clear my expectation that local authorities work with the voluntary and community sector to reach the most socially excluded families and last month we announced plans to make better use of health visitors in doing this. Today I am setting out new requirements that from next month Sure Start Children's Centres will visit every parent of a newborn baby in their area and begin to evaluate the services that they are providing to make sure they are accessible and responsive to the needs of the most disadvantaged in the community.

'But public services can only go so far. We know that best way to get a message to mums and dads who aren't using them is through other mums and dads at the school gates, in the doctor's surgery, in the local shop or at their place of worship. I therefore also want to call on parents who have had the benefit of Sure Start to use these informal networks to spread the message of Sure Start.'

Notes

1. This press notice applies to England.

2. Further information on Sure Start Children's Centre is available from http:www.surestart.gov.uk

3. Children's centres are a 'one-stop' service providing parents and children with information, advice and integrated services that are family-focused and flexible to meet families' needs. Those which serve the most disadvantaged communities will offer the most intensive support through a full range of services including early years provision; community health services; family support services; advice for parents on training and work through links with Jobcentre Plus; and support for childminders.

4. The government has invested over£20bn on early years and childcare services since 1997 (including funding to support free early education for 3 and 4 year olds) as part of an unprecedented expansion of provision for young children and families.

5. Government spending on Sure Start Group programmes alone will reach£1.8bn in 2007-08, around double the 2004-05 figure. The GSSG will total nearly£3bn for the period 2006-08, an increase of£700mn, compared to 2004-06, on a like-for-like basis.

Next month the Department for Education will issue planning and practice guidance to SSCC to include new requirements for reaching the most disadvantaged families.

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