Westminster City Council’s Budget plans to cut £474,000 from Children’s Centres in 2015/16 and a further £191,000 in 2016/17 have been directly contradicted by a House of Lords report on Affordable Childcare.
The Conservative council has claimed that by cutting support schemes, outsourcing the centres and reducing staffing levels they would be able to provide greater help for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. However the cross party report published by The House of Lords Committee on Affordable Childcare on Tuesday criticised these views, arguing that it was “a false economy to invest in early education at a level insufficient to improve child outcomes.”
Westminster City Council currently offers a range of Stay and Play sessions throughout its Children’s Centres, providing users with the opportunity to speak to other parents from a variety of social backgrounds as well as centre workers. The cuts will see many of these services which increase parental skills reduced or taken away all together. This is particularly shocking in the light of the Lord’s report findings which says “evidence indicates that the home learning environment is critical to a child’s development.”
The Lord’s report goes further in its criticism of service reductions, slamming the cuts to parental support programmes and insisting that “early education is not a magic bullet in relation to closing the attainment gap”. The Lords concluded that any early education needed to “considered alongside other interventions.” As Cathy Nutbrown author of the Nutbrown Review into childcare qualifications, argued in the report “The 15 hours cannot make up for all the other hours in the week.”
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;
“The House of Lords report confirms what Labour Councillors have long been saying; cuts to services reduces parental engagement which means that children, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, may not be getting the support they need at home.”
“It is appalling that the Conservatives wish to cut services such as the “My 2 year old & me” programme running alongside Stay and Play. These sessions provide an invaluable resource for parent/carers meaning that whilst the children are engaged they are given the opportunity to come together and share their experiences.”
“Service reductions of this nature will mean any improvement made by focusing more on disadvantaged children are likely to be completely mitigated by cuts elsewhere.”