No Cuts For Kids is a campaign to ensure that Sure Start Children’s Centres stay alive – and thrive. We ask the government to reinstate the ringfence of the Early Years grant, and safeguard standards. To add your support, please email here.

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At last, the ugly truth revealed

We’ve heard all the Tories’ lies and false promises.
Now the latest research* on the cuts to Sure Start reveal the ugly truths:
Over 47 Sure Start centres will be closed within the next year alone
And 89% of councils are cutting funding for the service

What does this mean for children and parents across the UK?

No access to safe, outside play
Reduced parental support
Increased risk of Post Natal Depression
No access to literacy and numeracy schemes (and their free creche)
A return to the bad old days of unfairness – as once again only those with spare money can afford to stimulate their kids
Lack of faith in the potential of ALL kids
A fractured society where communities don’t gain tolerance and understanding of each other

It also proves we have a prime minister we cannot believe in. Here’s a little reminder why:

“I want not just to repeat our commitment to keep Sure Start. But to set out how we will improve Sure Start.”
David Cameron, Supporting Parents speech, 11 January 2010,

“We are strongly committed to Sure Start Children’s Centres”
David Cameron, National Childbirth Trust message (pre-election)

Questioner: As a parent who relies heavily on Sure Start centres for the educational and social needs of my child, I would like to know whether these centres will continue to receive funding?
David Cameron: Yes, we back Sure Start. It’s a disgrace that Gordon Brown has been trying to frighten people about this. He’s the Prime Minister of this country but he’s been scaring people about something that really matters.
The Independent, 5 May 2010

These broken promises are an insult to people who listened in good faith. And a warning that, beyond all doubt, our children’s futures are not safe in Tory hands.

*conducted by Sharon Hodgson MP

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The Only Way is Cuts in Essex

A WINCHMORE Hill children’s centre will be axed as government budget cuts hit Enfield, the council has announced.

In proposals which open to public consultation today, Enfield Council plan to close the centre based at the Holy Trinity Church in Green Lanes, with families being asked to use the centre in Hazelwood Road in Palmers Green instead.

Councillors blame the closure on Government cuts which require them to save £822,000 from the children’s centre budget by March next year.
Councillor Ayfer Orhan, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The council’s aim has been to focus on the delivery of services while reducing costs.
“The council wants to hear from families, workers, experts and those who use our centres about what they think of these proposals.
The 24 centres across the borough provide childcare and a range of family services to children aged under five, with nine offering full day-care.
Funding now comes through the Government’s newly-introduced Early Intervention Grant, which the council must divide between a number of children and young people’s services, including work with teenage parents and youth crime programmes.
The consultation ends on July 31, after which the plan will go before the council’s cabinet for a decision.

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Right to criticise, wrong to reinvent the wheel

The recent ResPublica and Action for Children report has been rightly welcomed by many who are critical of Cameron’s blindness towards the needs of the UK’s children.

Children are too small for a big society. They, along with other vulnerable groups, are reliant upon adults and government to provide the services, guidance and opportunities they need to flourish. They are reliant on others to rescue them from abusive or dangerous situations. They and their parents and carers need community and a firm network of support to ensure equal opportunities and a better economic future.

All of this takes planning and investment. The opposite of what we are currently experiencing under this government’s cuts. It takes local focus – on the needs of discrete groups and areas. But what it doesn’t take is localism.

How do we know this? Because the haemorrhaging of money from the early years budget is what happens when local councils are left to their own devices. Most of the decisions taken by local councils don’t make the news. We don’t get consulted as we should (several Save our Sure Start groups are launching judicial reviews to prove this – but this is an extremely expensive and drawn out process). And we can’t always rely on our local MPs to step in and battle for us. So, unless (as many parents do) you devote most of your life to taking on the council – and accepting pyrrhic victory – you and your children’s needs get trampled on. No-one speaks for you at this level. Your voice is too small to be heard.

Localism is just another way the government – in its signature ‘hands-off’ style – is abnegating all responsibility towards almost anyone except the big moneymakers. The excellent, well-established Sure Start network has been doing a brilliant job in facilitating all the things Philip Blond wants to happen. Its funding was protected by central government. Its standards assured. So why does Blond want to reinvent the wheel?

Make improvements. Call it by another name. But don’t reinvent the wheel and leave dedicated staff, fractured communities and vulnerable children in your wake.

Every child deserves a Sure Start.

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Because every child matters

Today our appeal to David Cameron, as a father, is published in the Observer.

Parents from around the country, already hard-pushed for time, are devoting their lives to taking on their councils. Some, as in Derby, Camden and Corby seem to have cause for hope.

Some, like those in Hampshire have been brutally knocked back after an incessant, costly fight.

Others, like those in Sheffield Manchester and Birmingham face a protracted period of consultation, meetings, letters, demonstrations and compromise.

There are more and more campaign groups forming, and daily challenges to local councils. In Stoke, campaigners already have 6,500 signatures to their ‘save our centres’ petition and 5,000 against 30% cuts to staff and services. And on Mother’s Day we represented 52,000 people from around the country – including Liverpool, Kirklees and Hammersmith and Fulham.

As the cuts hit, and the effects on our children and communities are felt, we only fight harder and with more certainty. The inspiring, indomitable mums and dads who are campaigning ferociously deserve due recognition. The cost to them is huge, not just in terms of money.

But none of them stop. Why? Because they are protecting their children. We ask David Cameron and Sarah Teather to do the same.

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Happy Father’s Day Mr Cameron

Our letter appearing in the Observer tomorrow:

Dear Editor

On Father’s Day, we remind David Cameron of his promise to our children; to safeguard Sure Start and improve children’s life chances. A promise he has broken.

His cuts mean some areas have 25% less than last year to spend on early years’ services, and the loss of the ringfence means councils don’t even have to spend that money on children.

As a result, the Sure Start network of centres is being hollowed out.

The loss is greater than he may imagine.

Children’s centres are a place where kids from all backgrounds play and learn.

Disabled children mix with others and receive specialised care.

Parents access training, help with job applications, support with Post Natal Depression and all aspects of parenting.

Developmental problems and safeguarding issues are spotted early, improving lives and saving money later on.

These services are vital to the well-being of families. And the foundation for a better society, more important than a ‘big’ one.

Children are too small for a big society. They can’t make their own luck or defend their rights – yet they are bearing the burden of others’ mistakes.

We simply ask David Cameron to keep his promise; to rethink his cuts, or at least reinstate the ringfence.

Because every child matters.

Louise King, No Cuts For Kids.
Derby Save our Sure Start
Hampshire Save our Children’s Centres
Manchester Save our Sure Start
Stoke Save our Sure Start
Corby Pen Green Save our Children’s Centres
Birmingham Save our Children’s Centres
Sheffield Defend our Sure Start
London Save our Children’s Centres (Camden, Haringey, Westminster, Lambeth and Southwark)

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Sad news from Hampshire

Sad news – but horribly familiar. Hampshire Council reneged on their promise to give parents’ concerns due consideration and have pushed through cuts of 35% to the Sure Start budget. They are moving ahead with a plan to privatise and merge all Sure Start centres. There will be no piloting of the plan and the invitation to tender will be made available to interested parties in the Autumn.

Catherine Ovenden said, “Those voting in favour of the new plans seem to be disregarding all qualitative and quantitative evidence supporting the value of early intervention. I am encouraged that the Select Committee have asked for progress reports. However, I really hope they realise the impact that their decision today could have on young lives across Hampshire. I fear that they are making a huge mistake.”

A young artist, Natasha Gough, has been so inspired by the SOCC Hampshire campaign that she has created the image below. Natasha said, “when I first heard about the SOCC Hampshire campaign I thought this sounded like a really worthwhile project. So much hard work has clearly gone into the campaign and I loved that SOCC Hampshire had managed to rally so many people together because of this. I wanted to capture in an image what it is that Catherine and others have done, and why it is so important not only to them, but to so many parents and children as well.”

SOCC Hampshire will be selling prints and postcards of the image to raise funds for the campaign. Anyone interested in purchasing one, should email .

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Why Sure Start Matters

A brilliant piece by Catherine Ovenden, of Hampshire Save our Sure Start.

Investing in young families through universal, inclusive, early intervention saves lives, saves money, changes the aspirations of many children and helps us to be the best parents we can be, in our local community. This is backed by evidence, both quantitative and qualitative.

‘Need’ is not determined by financial situation, political persuasion, family make-up, marital status or ANY other measurable index. ANYONE can be in need. ALL families need support with parenting. SureStart offers this universal support and as such is excellent value for money.

I genuinely do understand the financial pressures that Councils in England are under, but by investing in SureStart you would be a Council that is looking into the future of the County and could even take credit for preventing many costly problems from ever occurring. Surely it is better for everyone for you to be a proactive rather than a reactive council?

I absolutely support that money should be there for vulnerable children who need to be cared for. However, there is also a lot of truth in the idea that you could help prevent at least some of those parents and children from reaching crisis point and becoming vulnerable, by supporting ALL families and investing in their futures.

I have been told on many occasions through the rollercoaster of our campaign that I should ‘get a thicker skin’. However, by not having a thick skin I have been able to listen to and understand the views of families from all walks of life.

The Dad who is away at sea for much of the year, who values the specialist Dad’s Play sessions run at weekends to help him bond with his children.
The Mum who lost her husband to ill health and copes alone with her children.
The widowed Grandmother who found herself volunteered to help care for her Grandchildren while her Son and Daughter-in-law went to work, and at 67 felt isolated and alone with two young children.
The family whose child has special educational needs and endures daily challenges.
The Mum who has to cope alone with the strains of looking after both her young family and her elderly and infirm parents.
The Mum who suffered horrendous post-natal depression and relied on her SureStart Centre for support, while everyone around her was busy at work.
The family, who were themselves raised on junk food, who have now been educated and trained to cook simple, healthy, cost effective family meals for their children.
The Mum who was raised with her parents telling her that she was rubbish and would never achieve, who, thanks to a confidence course and support group run by her centre, has just found the inner confidence to apply for her first job.
The Dad, who attended the first aid and baby resuscitation course which enabled him to feel confident enough to be left alone with his two small children.
The child who mixes with all children in their community from the day they are born and starts school with confidence, having already got over a lot of the bugs that come with starting to mix in large groups of children; who has a thirst and excitement for knowledge and an understanding of what it means to be part of a community.
They ALL need your support. They all need SureStart.

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Paygrounds? Enough is enough

At at time when the media is coming in for a lot of criticism, I was beyond grateful to the Guardian this week for breaking the story about Wandsworth council charging £2.50 for access to its playgrounds.

Grateful because now people should realise just how devastating the cuts to children’s services will be.

I don’t blame folk for not understanding what’s going on when the government lies – like promising to protect Sure Start, (Sarah Teather, Children’s Minister “The Government is committed to improving support for families from all backgrounds.”) And when councils give phoney excuses for cuts of up to £20m which basically amount to ‘The Tories made me do it.’

Or worse, when they fob us off with statements like ‘Lambeth is not closing any Sure Start centres’ (Cllr Matt Bennett – Labour). When in fact they are reducing services to a fraction of what they should be, making professional Sure Start positions voluntary ones, leaving the normally enthusiastic, helpful staff unmotivated and unhappy….And guess what, all this achieves that happy goal of people just not bothering to attend anymore. Bam. Another cost centre to strike off the list. Another few quid saved.

But back to the playgrounds. Because, admittedly, Sure Start isn’t known to everyone and is, bewilderingly, the subject of a number of misapprehensions (baby yoga for the middle classes?) Everyone has enjoyed playgrounds at some time or another. They form a crucial part of that thing called ‘society’ which, very ironically, this government seems hell bent on destroying.

They’re vital outside space for those of us without gardens – I mean, with the Sure Starts closing, are we supposed to keep our kids cooped up in the flat all day? Don’t the government have obesity targets to meet?

They’re a place for children to socialise, yes that’s it – make friends with kids from all walks of life, and have a good time. Because, guess what Mr Cameron, even those with enormous gardens chock full of the latest garden activity sets – even they like to take their children to a park. To play. To kick a ball around with others. To race each other up the climbing frame.

They’re a place for adults to make friends too. They’re a source of civic pride. Oh good grief – you see how ridiculous this situation is? Having to justify something as germane to British life as playgrounds.

I went to my local children’s centre in Kennington on Thursday and told people about the situation in Lambeth – all playgrounds are closing apart from on Saturdays. They sat open mouthed. And these are mainly people with gardens, certainly not classified under ‘poor’. Over the other side, in Vauxhall, I feel a lot more guilty about raising the subject. There we have a grid-system of council flats and tower blocks. We live in the playgrounds. Much like many of the Wandsworth inhabitants do, and hundreds of thousands of others in the UK.

What do we do, everyone says. Have you spoken to the council? Yes – and had countless meetings cancelled, by email, with five minutes’ notice. Then councillors don’t reply to emails or letters, they don’t return calls. There are lobbies, demos at the council buildings…And the mouths grow wider. Because then it sinks in. All these terrible things are actually happening, to us and our children, in a society we thought was part of the free world. And the government stands back, having inflicted these cuts on children’s services, having reneged on all their pre-election promises, and looks away.

And who do we turn to? There’s no union representing parents. No union representing children.

That’s the government’s job.

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Father’s Day: Join us at 10 Downing Street with your Petition!

No Cuts For Kids is a campaign to ensure that Sure Start Children’s Centres continue to serve all our children.

Please join us for our Father’s Day petition hand-in at No.10 Downing Street. Let’s show Prime Minister David Cameron who cares.

On Sunday 19th June at 11am we will be at 10 Downing Street to hand in petitions from all over the country, asking the government to ringfence the Sure Start budget and safeguard standards.

Give your campaign national coverage
Lobbying local councils is vitally important, but this is also an issue for central government.

On Mother’s Day we presented over 52,000 signatures to Downing Street and received a huge amount of coverage, making Sure Start a key issue in the recent local elections, and the buzzword on MPs’ lips.

Father’s Day will be even bigger. This is our direct appeal to David Cameron, as a dad, to do the decent thing and care for our children.

* Email us details of your campaign…….. Add your support via email here.

* Start your local petition now…. Go to and get started.

We must act now
By imposing horrific cuts, and not obliging councils to make adequate provision for childrens’ services, this government is dodging its responsibility – the responsibility it holds to protect and nurture our most important assets, our children.

Even when local councils say they are keeping centres open, the cutbacks are so harsh that:
* centres open sporadically or hardly at all;
* professional Sure Start positions are advertised as voluntary ones;
* staff are demoralised and standards debased;
* private money must be relied on to provide basic services;
* or, even worse, unqualified, busy parents are left to run these centres themselves.

Please email us about your campaign so we can co-ordinate action, and guarantee you a place on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street here

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Facebook (and Twitter) – Let’s all connect up

No Cuts For Kids has a Facebook page. Do visit us there.

Please be our friend on that page – and also tell us below (Comments) the name of your own NCFK / ‘Save Sure Start’ Facebook page, so we can unite as one voice….

And the same of course for Twitter.

The more connections, the better, so please share info here (Leave a Comment box below) on where we can find you and your campaign, as soon as you can.

And do get in touch via email here.

We look forward to hearing from you soon. Many thanks.

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