Sure Start missing most vulnerable parents, claims charity chief

The national evaluation of Sure Start is likely to show that the programme’s focus on parental involvement is scaring off vulnerable parents who lack confidence, it was revealed last week.

Caroline Abrahams, head of public policy at children’s charity NCH, said the findings would show there was a need for a “plan B” to ensure the most excluded families received the services they needed.

“This demonstrates the difficulties of getting a scheme that reaches out to the most vulnerable children,” she told delegates at last week’s Community Care Live Children and Families conference.

David Hawker, director of children, families and schools at Brighton and Hove Council, agreed that the parents most in need of Sure Start services were not becoming involved in the programme.

“At the moment the most vulnerable have been missed by Sure Start services and they fall back on statutory services and that shouldn’t be the case,” he said.

Hawker also expressed concerns about the level of government funding provided for children’s centres.

“I share the fears that the whole programme is underfunded and we may let people down. Having raised expectations we may not be able to deliver,” he said.

Elsewhere at the conference, Liz Davies, senior lecturer in social work at London Metropolitan University, voiced her opposition to the government’s proposals to scrap the child protection register.

Responding to questions, Al Aynsley-Green, the children’s commissioner for England, said his team was considering what would be the best system to protect children and would “report in due course”.

Chris Batty, service inspector manager at the Commission for Social Care Inspection, said the body had not opposed the proposal because it did not believe the child protection register was the only way to adequately protect children.

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