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Sure Start is a UK Government initiative,originating in the Treasury, with the aim of "giving children the best possible start in life" through improvement of childcare, early education, health and family support, with an emphasis on outreach and community development. The programme was originally intended to support families from pregnancy until children were four years old but the brand was extended to cover an undefined responsibity up to age fourteen, or sixteen for those with disabilities. Launched in 1998, Sure Start had similarities to the Early Head Start programme in the United States and is also comparable to Australia Head Start and Ontario’s Early Years Plan. There were planned to be over 520 Sure Start centres but this has now transmogrified into a proposal to have up to 2,500 "Sure Start Children's Centres" by 2008 and 3500 by 2010, which have the same ambitions as Sure Start but with much lower funding per centre. The new centres will be controlled by local government rather than be autonomously run by local communities, especially parents.
Related to the Government's goal of reducing child poverty, the initial focus of Sure Start was in particularly disadvantaged areas but the programme was open to all families living in those areas, not just the disadvantaged. Sure Start is overseen by the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Work and Pensions. The programme has been described by Tony Blair as "one of New Labour's greatest achievements".
In 2006 Sure Start Margate (one of the early "trail blazer" surestarts) became a Community Mutual (a mutual society owned by the community). The community elected board met for the first time in September of 2006.
This addressed the problem presented by the tapering off of funds allocated to the project. The elections were held after a large number of audits including a glowing report from OFSTED after the first inspection of the purpose build meadow nersery which under the Community Mutual must make a modest profit.
- Comparison of National Programmes for Children 0-5 and their Families (Hong Kong Council of Social Service Service Development)
- Guardian:Shaky Times for Sure Start, Tuesday September 13, 2005
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