HC Deb 10 June 1999 vol 332 cc388-9W
Miss Begg

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps have been taken to safeguard the interests of the voluntary sector in early years services. [85423]

Ms Hodge

We have taken a number of steps to ensure that voluntary pre-schools and playgroups contribute fully to early education and care. The voluntary and private sectors have to be represented on the Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships which plan the delivery and development of local early years service. Each partnership has to provide specifically for the involvement of voluntary providers; to assess the health of the non-maintained sector in their areas; and to show financial support that may be available. Plans for the provision of additional places for 3 year olds, for which we are making available new funding of £390 million over three years from September 1999, must also fully involve the voluntary sector.

The same principles apply to Sure Start, which will provide integrated and community-based services for 0 to 3s and their families. The voluntary sector is a significant partner in all 60 Trailblazer programmes, and leads some of them.

In March, I appointed an independent review team to advise on how pre-schools and playgroups can contribute further to the development of early education and child care; the team will report by August. Good voluntary pre-schools and playgroups that are in financial difficulties will also be able to apply for special short term grants under the new £500,000 scheme also announced in March.