One of the jobs I had before I became the MP for Leicester West was director of the Maternity Alliance – a national charity which campaigned for better rights and services for pregnant women, new parents and babies under one-year-old
So I was very interested to read a report by Graham Allen, the MP for Nottingham North, which looks at what more we should be doing to help families with very young children.
The report found that children’s earliest years are crucial in shaping how well they do at school and at work and that good-quality early years services can make a real difference in helping every child fulfil their potential.
Investing in services for young children also makes economic sense. Early-intervention programmes can end up saving five times as much as they cost through reduced spending on welfare bills and crime, increased tax revenues from higher employment and improved physical and mental health.
That’s why I’m such a passionate supporter of Sure Start Children’s Centres, which bring together childcare, health and family support, alongside advice for parents on job and training opportunities.
There are now fantastic Sure Start services across my constituency – in Avebury Meadows, Beaumont Leys, Braunstone, Braunstone Frith, New Parks, Rowley Fields and the West End.
My worry is that the Government is putting these services at risk. Money for Sure Start is being bundled up with funding for other early intervention programmes.
The Government claims this will give councils greater flexibility. But the truth is that Leicester’s early intervention grant is being reduced by more than £5 million this year.
This isn’t flexibility, it is a cut. And it’s incredibly short-sighted when we know how important children’s early years are and when investing in early years services saves the taxpayer money in the long run.
That is why I am fighting to protect Sure Start, so we ensure all children in Leicester get the opportunities they need to succeed in life.