Rishi Sunak’s £500m family package isn’t enough, says sector chief – ‘Crumbling structure’

Rishi Sunak: What to expect from budget with Victoria Scholar

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The family package includes £80m to create another 75 family hubs (support centres for families to access services in one place) in local authorities across England. Approximately £100m will go towards supporting the mental health of expectant parents.

Another £200m will help around 300,000 most vulnerable parents and children going through complex issues.

The Chancellor’s latest plan for families has been labelled a “sticking plaster” by his Labour opponents as they claim this new project isn’t enough to fix a “crumbling” structure.

Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: “This supposed commitment rings hollow after 11 years of Conservative cuts have forced the closure of over 1,000 children’s centres – cutting off the early learning that sets children up for life.”

She added: “This has come alongside the government stripping away early intervention children’s services, allowing problems to escalate into crises.

“This is a smokescreen for the Conservatives’ failure to deliver for families.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said nearly 3,000 providers in the early years care sector have closed since the start of 2021 – and 16,000 had shut in the last six years.

“That tells you we have a crumbling infrastructure, so I come back to this point: it’s no good just having a bit-piece approach to this, it needs a revamp,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“We need an independent review to look at our early years and education system in the UK.

“I hope there’s more coming in the spending review, but I do question why would you create another infrastructure of early years support when the existing structure is crumbling around you.

“And the Government knows this is the case. So it’s a bitter pill to swallow, to see all of this and yet the existing system is ignored.”

Imran Hussain of the Action for Children charity welcomed “vital” support for family hubs but said he hoped more investment from the chancellor would follow.

“After years of cuts to these services, we hope this will mark the start of a programme of investment to ensure all children can access high-quality early years services,” he said.

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Vicky Nevin of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said she was worried that support for health visiting was “missing” from the funding package.

“Health visitors are in a prime position to spot when parents are struggling … But the workforce has been drastically cut by around a third since 2015.”

However, Mr Sunak said this new package will be highly beneficial.

“I passionately believe that we have a duty to give young families and their children the best possible start in life,” he said.

“I’m thrilled that this investment will guarantee that thousands of families across England are given support to lead healthy and happy lives,” he said.

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