Local authorities set to take control of Sure Start

Responsibility for delivering the government’s Sure Start
initiative looks set to be handed over to councils as part of a
wider programme to devolve childcare services from central to local
government, writes Derren Hayes. 

The recommendation by the Prime Minister’s strategy unit,
is one of a number included in the inter-departmental cross-cutting
review of childcare services.

‘Delivering for Children and Families’ concludes that empowering
local authorities and clarifying the role they play in delivering
childcare should help the joining together of services and
programmes locally.

It adds: “Delivery of the government’s vision will require
local authorities over time to extend their remit to take
responsibility for delivering Sure Start programmes currently
managed from the centre, particularly where such services are being
integrated with childcare and early years education on the

The report also calls for local authorities to be given a
greater role in promoting and developing childcare and early years
services, with the chief executive’s department having the
ultimate responsibility for driving strategy.

The unit also wants to see the local partnerships of childcare
providers, councils, businesses and regeneration organisations, set
up in 1998 to deliver the government’s childcare strategy, to
be pushed into a secondary role, subordinate to councils.

The report confirms government plans to create 250,000 extra
nursery places by 2006, first announced as part of July’s
spending review, to get 70 per cent of lone parents into work and
broaden childcare tax breaks.

The Daycare Trust said the ambitious plans could be undermined
by its high cost and problems with recruiting and retaining nursery

The number of childcare places is currently increasing by around
16,000 a year, or 2 per cent, but the government’s target
requires a 30 per cent increase spread over the next four

Stephen Burke, director of the Daycare Trust, said: “Childcare
for all will remain a dream until services are made affordable and
accessible, working in childcare is better valued and investment is
extended beyond the targeted areas.”

A full copy of the report is available by clicking

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