I’m sure at some point in your childhood, all of you spent some time building sandcastles. Hours of carefully crafting towers and turrets, moats and bridges, then decorating them with shells and pebbles. And then inevitably another kid comes over and just a few seconds of stamping and kicking leaves the castle you spent hours building in ruins. It is, after all, far quicker and easier to destroy something than it is to build it.
As it is with sandcastles, so it is with public services. Over years, the last Labour Government built services that improved the lives of people in this country only for the Tories (and the Liberal Democrats) to destroy them in a fraction of the time.
Among the many services that the Conservatives have decimated over the past 9 years, one cut that has proved most disastrous (and will prove even more so over time) is the butchering of Sure Start. For those who might not have heard of it, Sure Start was launched in 1998 by the late Tessa Jowell as a programme to give children the best possible start in life.
To do this, children’s centres were set up in the most deprived communities across the country. Working with parents and children, Sure Start centres gave families support, training and advice which led to all sorts of improvements. Various studies have shown the fantastic impact that these centres have had – for instance, a study this year found that Sure Start saved our NHS millions of pounds by reducing the number of people having to go to hospital.
And if you’re in any doubt about how Sure Start can transform people’s lives, look no further than a young mum from Stockport who left school with no qualifications. After using her local Sure Start Centre, Angela Rayner has gone on to become not just a fantastic MP, but a member of the Shadow Cabinet!
Unfortunately, under the Tories we have seen over 500 Sure Start centres closed and its funding slashed by two thirds. It’s heart-breaking to think of all the thousands of children and parents who are now without vital support.
Luckily, in Angela Rayner Labour has a Shadow Education Secretary who knows better than almost anybody else how this scheme can transform lives. That’s why the next Labour Government will rebuild and reinvigorate it, delivering a renewed Sure Start Plus.
After 9 years of neglect and Tory austerity, rebuilding won’t be easy – it will need time and patience – but we really do owe it to children and parents across Stockport and beyond to revive this vital service.