Parent power for some

It appears that parent power is causing the government’s 3bn Sure Start initiative to veer off course by diverting support away from the most needy. Or, as the researchers who have carried out a national evaluation of the scheme so eloquently put it, “the utilisation of services by those with greater human capital left others with less access to services.” So no surprises there then.

Yet ministers maintain there is nothing wrong with the basic Sure Start philosophy and the problem lies with its implementation on the ground. Maybe so, but it is surely a big disappointment that those children and families most in need of support are the very ones who are missing out – and indeed often doing worse when they live in a Sure Start area.

There is hope that the situation will improve when councils take over the running of Sure Start. Given councils’ good track record on targeting the most disadvantaged then it should do. But there may be conflict given the government’s declared aim of pushing parent power in every area of children’s services. Perhaps these results should lead ministers to pause and reflect that putting more power into the hands of parents isn’t the universal panacea they seem to believe it is.

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