Sure Start exists to focus the efforts of various agencies to
help children out of poverty. Here Sure Start Unit head Naomi
Eisenstadt offers an overview of the initiative’s progress.
I am delighted to be contributing to this first issue of 0-19.
My hope is that this new magazine will publicise best practice in
how health, education, social services, environmental services,
housing and transport can work together for children.
Our Sure Start experience demonstrates the complexity of
influences on children, from the economic and social position of
mothers during pregnancy through to environmental impacts during
the teen years; it seems to take considerably more than a village
to raise a child in a rapidly changing Britain.
Sure Start works to bring together the agencies and
organisations that have a key role to play in children’s lives at
local level and at national level. The Sure Start Unit itself is
jointly accountable to Estelle Morris, the secretary of state for
education and skills, and Yvette Cooper, the minister for public
health. At local level, the partnerships that set up and run Sure
Start programmes include officers from the local authority, the key
local health agencies, voluntary organisations and parents.
The importance of parents in the running of Sure Start cannot be
overstated. They help to identify what has not worked in the past,
and how services could be improved to better meet their needs and
their children’s needs.
We have just launched an expansion of Sure Start programmes.
This will add 85 new programmes to the 260 already approved, and
the further 170 which are in the pipeline. We are still on target
to reach our goal of 500 programmes operating by March 2004. We
expect that Sure Start will reach about one-third of children under
four living in poverty in England. The big challenge for the future
is how to influence mainstream providers so that the two-thirds of
young children who do not live in Sure Start areas benefit from
what we are learning about designing and reshaping services.
Naomi Eisenstadt is the head of the
Sure Start Unit
Norfolk parents’ success
The “Community Parent Network” set up by Sure Start Great
Yarmouth has been so good at finding parents work that it has
become a victim of its own success. The scheme, which is accredited
through the Open College Network, trains parents to become
“community parents”. Their role is to visit families within the
community and educate them on what Sure Start has to offer. The
course is challenging and developmental. Of the first group of 18
parents to join, seven have now gone on to find jobs within similar
professions. This has been a notable achievement for the programme,
though to ensure that they have enough staff the Community Parent
Network has had to place a minimum work period of six months to a
year for each person trained. However, they are continuing to train
new people and there are currently 10 parents on the training
Sure Start’s “prep school”
Sure Start Sefton is helping to get schools ready for children
by awarding local nursery and primary schools with “schools
excellence marks”. Six schools are currently taking part in the
project’s pilot scheme, in the hope of being awarded the first
school’s excellence marks. The local education authority has been
involved and the programme aims to link the Sure Start principles
with the services offered in schools. Schools will be assessed and
then awarded an excellence mark when they meet 10 criteria that
cover things such as school ethos, relationship with parents, and
school learning environment. Sure Start Sefton doesn’t expect that
the excellence mark will involve much extra work for the schools,
however, as in many cases it acts as a validation of their already
strong commitment to the community.
Read and Play is just fine
Recent consultation with Sure Start Peterlee has resulted in
Durham County Council scrapping library fines for children’s (aged
0-4) books across the county. Sure Start Peterlee persuaded Durham
County Council to reshape the library service by integrating a
“Read and Play” club along with the other services they offered.
The club lends toys, books and videos to children and does not fine
for late returns of children’s books. The Sure Start Bookworm card
provides an automatic library membership and is valid at all the
borough’s libraries. The First Read and Play club has only been up
and running for eight weeks, yet it has seen a 100 per cent
increase in borrowing. Two more Read and Play schemes will be
The price is right for Oldham
Sure Start Oldham’s “baby bulk buy” scheme is so successful that
its organisers are planning to expand it. The scheme is an example
of a small community working together to benefit everyone. A board
of nine Sure Start parents joined forces to set up the non-profit
bulk buy scheme. The board has its own bank account and holds
meetings where members decide on products to purchase such as
nappies and home safety equipment. Sales are held at local venues
such as parent and toddler groups, where the goods are sold to
parents at cost price.
For further information about Sure Start, including a full list
of the new districts announced, see the Sure Start website at www.surestart.gov.uk