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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Cameron's Plan for Sure Start

Cameron sets out plans for new Sure Start

By Catherine Gaunt, Nursery World, 11 January 2010
Sure Start children's centres would move away from providing universal services for all parents with young children and focus on the most disadvantaged and 'dysfunctional' families, under Conservative party plans for 'a new generation' of Sure Start centres.
Conservative leader David Cameron said that the new model of Sure Start would focus on early intervention, with staff paid partly by results.
Speaking at the launch of an inquiry by think-tank Demos on ‘character', Mr Cameron reiterated the Tories' commitment to Sure Start but said it had lost its focus.
He said, ‘There is little accountability in how Sure Start money is spent, so the funding doesn't necessarily follow the support programmes that work. There's not enough diversity of provision, because the voluntary sector and other community organisations have been crowded out.
‘The people who need it most – disadvantaged and dysfunctional families – are not getting enough of the benefit.'
Mr Cameron said that research from the National Academy for Parenting Practitioners and others had identified what worked, and that independent organisations with a proven track record in parenting interventions, like Lifeline and 4Children and Homestart, would be invited to run children's centres.
‘They will then be paid – at least in part – according to the results they achieve. Of course many things we regard as success are hard to measure, such as a child's level of happiness and comfort. But as the family nurse partnership has suggested, there are some tangible measurements we can apply – for example, improvements in school readiness and infant mortality.'
He said that if the Tories were in power a new Early Years Support Team would be set up within the Department for Children, Schools and Families, with responsibility for designing these contracts.
He added, ‘The funding for this work will be through a dedicated Early Years Support Budget, building on the existing dedicated funding for Sure Start by incorporating the many streams of funding directed at early years support that are currently dispersed through Whitehall.'
Mr Cameron likened the Conservatives' ambition for Sure Start to the success of the Academy schools programme, in that centres would be independent and operate outside local government and funded directly by central government.
Commenting on the proposals, Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, welcomed plans to bring together early years funding and increase accountability, but said Sure Start should remain universal.
‘One of the great advantages of children's centres is that they do not stigmatise families because they are available to all, something that families tell us is very important,' she said.
‘Too narrow a focus on deprived families may jeopardise this, and we would urge Mr Cameron to maintain a universal approach.
'While a focus on results and outcomes is positive, international evidence has shown that the real gains from early years investment are not fully realised until those children reach maturity. This must be taken into account.'
Mr Cameron also said that the Conservatives would shortly be publishing their own family green paper on policies to make Britain more family-friendly.
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Can you catch your breath!?!  It's late I need to sleep.  Cameron is going backwards Will comment on this in the near future.

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