DCSF wants Sure Start centres placed on statutory footing

The government has launched a public consultation on plans to put Sure Start Children’s Centres on a statutory footing as part of the forthcoming Education and Skills Bill.

Launching the consultation, children’s minister Beverley Hughes said: “I want to ensure that SSCCs become an established part of the universal services available for young children and their families, and that local authorities and their partners have clear duties to establish and maintain sufficient SSCCs to meet their needs.”

There are now almost 3,000 SSCCs in most communities and a further 500 are expected to be established by 2010, but they are currently just one way local authorities can meet their duties to provide sufficient childcare for parents and they have no statutory status.

Duty on councils 

The move would mean that local authorities would have a duty to assess the need for SSCCs in their area and to establish and maintain sufficient centres to meet that need. Councils would still have a duty to consider whether these services could be delivered by a private, voluntary or independent provider.  

The consultation also proposes that every SSCC has an advisory board representing parents and carers, service providers and the community, that all Sure Start staff are checked under the vetting and barring scheme, due to come into force in 2009, and that Ofsted can inspect services at the government’s request.

It also suggests the introduction of future requirements, including a governing body and the need for staff to have specific qualifications.  

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