Government control could undermine new Sure Start unit

The director of the new inter-departmental Sure Start Unit has
expressed worries about the effects of increased control from
central government, writes Amy

Naomi Eisenstadt warned just a month after the official launch
of the new unit that the ethos of local participation and ownership
that had been developed since Sure Start began in 1999 could be
ruined by involvement from the centre.

“The magic of Sure Start is local community participation and
the problem with central government is that they think local means
local government. It doesn’t – it means (at) street
(level),” she told a conference on modernising health visiting.

She continued by saying that the most difficult families were
not going to be reached by letters, but instead by face-to-face
workers actually going out into the community and trying to make
contact via local facilities such as post offices or shops.

Eisenstadt also said how much more difficult it had become to
organise meetings since Sure Start had come under the remit of a
cabinet subcommittee instead of a ministerial steering group. The
new unit also covers early years and childcare policy areas.

She said that, as a non-minister, she was not even officially
allowed to attend the meetings and that although an agreement had
been reached allowing her to attend, this was only on the condition
that she did not speak.

The conference was organised by the Harrogate Centre for
Excellence in Health and Social Care.

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