Headlines: February 19th, 2004

Six good quality early years services have been praised for their joined up thinking and named as Sure Start Children’s Centres. The schemes are the Somerford Children’s Centre in Dorset, and five based in Leeds, the Bramley, Chapeltown, Hawksworthwood, Beeston and Windmill Centres.They join a growing network of centres each providing integrated access to five key services, early education, childcare, health services, family support and help into employment. The government hopes they will act as a model for the transformation of children’s services.

Children’s Minister, Margaret Hodge, who announced the new status for the Dorset and Leeds schemes said the Government was committed to providing children centre services to all pre-school children and families in the most disadvantaged areas of England. In the longer term the vision was for there to be a centre in every community.

“The early years services which have become Sure Start Children’s Centres are helping families access the services they need, where and when they need it, ” she said. “We want to make sure that the individual child is at the centre of everything we do – that is the Sure Start approach which I want to see extended across all children’s services, ” she added.

To become a Sure Start Children’s Centre, early years services have to integrate good quality childcare with the other services. There are now 67 such centres in existence, building on existing successful schemes like Sure Start local programmes, Neighbourhood Nurseries, of which 459 are now open and the 107 Early Excellence Centres.