The Department of Health has come under fire from the founder of
Sure Start for its lack of interest in the early years’
Norman Glass accused the DoH of taking “absolutely no
interest” in Sure Start when it was launched in 1998 –
despite the Commons brief for it falling to the then public health
minister Tessa Jowell.
Speaking at a Tavistock Centre seminar in London, he added that
the situation had failed to improve even after the appointment in
2001 of the first national director of children’s healthcare
The national director role, about to be vacated by the now
children’s commissioner Al Aynsley-Green, was created after
the Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry into high death rates in
paediatric open-heart surgery highlighted a lack of priority given
to children’s services in the NHS.
The DoH’s apparent indifference comes as a surprise given
that it had championed preventive children’s social services
throughout the 1990s.
But, responding to Glass’s criticisms, a spokesperson for
the DoH insisted the department worked closely with the Department
for Education and Skills on child health issues.
“The Children’s National Service Framework, a 10-year
programme to bring about long-term and sustained improvement in
children’s health, is a prime example of cross government working
to secure fair, high quality and integrated health and social care
from pregnancy, right through to adulthood,” she said.
Glass established Sure Start while working as a senior civil
servant in the Treasury. However, he became disillusioned after
discovering that the preventive early years’ initiative was
to be transferred to local authorities.
The DfES, which has responsibility for Sure Start, has said that
all local programmes will cease to be centrally funded by April
2008, with administrative responsibility passing to local
Glass, who is now chief executive of the National Centre for
Social Research, added that the decision to combine Sure Start with
children’s centres undermined the policy and showed
“excessive faith in local authorities”.