How many children and families have been supported by Sure Start in York since the programme's inception.
Copy and paste this code on your website
City of York had one Sure Start local programme, which opened in November 2002, covering a catchment area in which there were 598 children under four. The latest figures, from March 2006, indicate that on average the programme saw 20 per cent. of those children each month. In July, the programme was designated as a Sure Start children's centre, providing services for 750 under-fives.
There are 9,000 children in York under the age of five. By April next year, the programme will have provided eight children's centres, offering support for 6,200 children. Is the Government's plan to roll out the scheme so that all children can receive the services of children's centres, and if so, what is the timetable for delivering that?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I know that he is a strong champion of the Sure Start programme in his area. Under phase 2, York is set to receive £1.7 million of revenue and £3.2 million of capital in total to support the development of the seven other centres. The Government's target is for every community to have a Sure Start children's centre by 2010, and as he rightly says, they make an important difference, initially to the most disadvantaged children, and ultimately to all children.
I believe that the programme's first children's centre recently opened in New Earswick, which is in the city of York part of the Vale of York. Does the right hon. Lady accept that that centre shows that children's centres can work very effectively with the private sector, which offers nursery places independently? I understand that York will pilot the next stage of the free entitlement to nursery places. Will she use it as a role model, and accept that there should be a free economy as far as the free entitlement to nursery places is concerned, in York and the rest of the country?
I am glad that in her question, the hon. Lady recognises, as she has not done before, that the private sector plays an important and substantial role in the development of children's centres. The scheme is far from being about state provision: the child care offered by 58 per cent. of children's centres is provided not by the state but by the private sector. As she says, that is the case in the New Earswick centre, which is to be designated this autumn. That applies, too, to the free entitlement for three and four-year-olds. We want to retain that mixed economy; overall, we think that it is a great strength. We want local authorities to support private and voluntary providers and to sustain their provision.