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More than eight in 10 local authorities have closed children’s centres

By Rachel Lawlerchildren playing children's centres

More than eight in 10 local authorities saw a fall in the number of children’s centres between 2010 and 2019, according to government figures analysed by the Alliance.

The figures were published by children and families minister Michelle Donelan in response to a parliamentary question from shadow education secretary Angela Rayner.

Alliance analysis
The Alliance’s analysis shows that more than a third of local authorities have seen the number of children’s centres in their area cut by more than 50%. Only two local authorities saw any increase.

The five worse affected areas in terms of the number of net children’s centre losses are:

Local authority

Children’s centres in 2010

Children’s centres in 2019

Total reduction

Percentage reduction

Essex

85

19

66

78%

Staffordshire

54

8

46

85%

Birmingham

75

34

41

55%

Oxfordshire

45

8

37

82%

Derbyshire

54

21

33

61%

 

The six worst affected areas in terms of percentage of net children’s centres losses are:

Local authority

Children’s centres in 2010

Children’s centres in 2019

Total reduction

Percentage reduction

Gateshead

15

1

14

93%

Harrow

16

2

14

88%

Trafford

16

2

14

88%

Staffordshire

54

8

46

85%

Luton

23

4

19

83%

St Helens

12

2

10

83%

 

Neglected policy
The Alliance has called on the government to “get its act together” in response to figures.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “We know that children’s centres play a vital role in supporting children and families – and particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds – but, for all the government rhetoric about the importance of supporting social mobility, this is a policy area that has been completely neglected for years now.

“Given the total lack of clear strategic direction from government, alongside severe and sustained funding cuts, it is no surprise that many children centres have been forced to close their doors – and yet, it is still shocking to see the sheer scale of centre closures that some areas have endured over the last decade.

“It beggars belief that such a vital source of help and support for families has effectively been abandoned. The government needs to get its act together, commit to investing substantially into children’s centres, and ensure that all families have access to the early support services that they need.”

Risking success
Last year, the  Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warned that the government was risking the success of its Sure Start progreamme, after its analysis found that the children's centres had a “big positive effect on children’s health [and] reducing hospitalisations”. The IFS reported that spending on the Sure Start programmed peaked in 2010 at £1.8 billion a year, in current prices, but has since seen its budget cut by two-thirds.

Find out more
One in six children's centres has closed since 2010
Government risks Sure Start success, warns IFS