HC Deb 30 October 2003 vol 412 cc422-3
4. Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley)

How many children's centres have been established; and if he will make a statement. [135235]

The Minister for Children (Margaret Hodge)

Sixty-one children's centres have been designated in England. Local authorities have now submitted their plans for developing further children's centres, and we are currently considering them. Children's centres funded by this programme will be created in the most disadvantaged areas in England. We will develop 43,000 new child care places and provide integrated sure start services, including community health services and family services, for up to 650,000 children under five.

Mrs. Cryer

I thank my right hon. Friend for that very welcome news. Will she join me in welcoming the fact that the current Guardhouse, Braithwaite and Highfield sure start programme will become Keighley's first children's centre in 2004, and that in 2005, children's centres will be developed in Parkwood, Woodhouse and Bracken Bank, and in the Lawkholme area of Keighley? Lawkholme is an acutely deprived Asian area. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the children from Lawkholme will benefit enormously from attending a children's centre before going to school, and that it might even give them some knowledge of English before they go into nursery and then reception?

Margaret Hodge

I welcome the ambitious programme to create children's centres in my hon. Friend's constituency. They will make a huge difference to the opportunities for young children to develop their potential. I entirely agree that if the centres can use locally the resources that we make available to them to help the development of English speaking among those children who do not have English as their first language. it will be important in ensuring their inclusion and high standards when they go through school.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

May I tell my right hon. Friend about a constituent of mine who contacted my office a couple of weeks ago? She was the first person—the first of many, I hope▀×to approach me to say, "I do not want to be moved away from the Stanney estate." Sure start has had a massive impact on that estate. It is welcomed by the parents, and the estate is also the location for a proposed children's centre. A couple of weeks ago, we were pleased to be able to show some visitors from Hungary—visiting us through the Department for Education and Skills—what we were doing in that area. This initiative is having an impact right across the most deprived parts of my constituency. Let us see more of it, and more control of the centres by the parents in those communities.

Margaret Hodge

I am delighted by my hon. Friend's experience of what I think is one of the most innovative and successful programmes to be initiated by this Government. It is interesting that nobody from the Opposition has risen to question us on this undoubted success of the Labour Government. I also share my hon. Friend's belief that sure start can contribute towards strengthening local communities rather than encouraging people to leave them. I entirely agree that one of the purposes of sure start is to provide support not only to young children but to their families, because parents play such a crucial role in ensuring good outcomes for children.