Integrated early years services – the benefits are clear

By Sarah Cattan and Christine Farquharson | 31 August 2021

The Institute for Fiscal Studies’ report on the long-term benefits of Sure Start offers a rare opportunity to build on a strong evidence base to design the new Family Hubs programme, say Sarah Cattan and Christine Farquharson

F or more than a decade, Sure Start children’s centres were one of the most important early years services in England. At their peak in 2010, £1.8bn of annual funding supported a network of over 3,000 centres around England to bring together parenting support, access to childcare, health services and early learning classes for families with children under the age of five. However, since 2010, Sure Start funding has been cut by more than two-thirds and many centres have been closed or consolidated.

Following the Leadsom Review into the first 1,001 days of life, the Government has started to promote Family Hubs as a new programme to integrate services, in a similar way to Sure Start. The Family Hub offer is currently small – with less than 1% of Sure Start’s peak levels of funding. But new research on the long-term benefits of Sure Start gives policymakers a rare opportunity to build on a strong and relevant evidence base to design the new programme.

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