Review of child care recommends councils should take on Sure Start

Responsibility for delivering the government’s flagship Sure Start
initiative looks set to be handed over to councils as part of a
programme to devolve child care services from central to local

The recommendation, by the Prime Minister’s strategy unit, is one
of a number included in the inter-departmental review of child care
services, published last week.

Delivering for Children and Families concludes that
empowering local authorities and clarifying the role they play in
delivering child care 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

The report also calls for local authorities to be given a greater
role in promoting and developing child care 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 child care
providers, councils, businesses and regeneration organisations, set
up in 1998 to deliver the government’s child care 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 (news, page 6, 18 July), to get 70 per cent of lone parents
into work and to broaden child care tax breaks.

The charity the Daycare Trust said the ambitious plans could be
undermined by their high cost and problems with recruiting and
retaining nursery staff.

The number of child care 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 over the next four years.

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

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