Sure Start children’s centres are key to battling inequality, says frontrunner to become Labour mayoral candidate for London
Tessa Jowell, the frontrunner to win the Labour nomination for London mayor, will propose a £60m fund in London to reestablish Sure Start, the scheme to help mothers with babies and very young children.
Jowell, the former shadow minister for the Olympics and for London, was a founder of Sure Start 18 years ago as a Labour minister for public health, along with the former Labour education secretary David Blunkett. She regards help with early mothering as one of the most essential long-term ways to tackle growing inequality in London.
The mayoralty cash would be match-funded with local authorities and would be focused on universal services for parents with babies in their first 1,000 days. The aim would be to re-establish Sure Start centres as focal points for local communities.
There are currently 400 children’s centres in London but they are under pressure from central government spending cuts.
Jowell told the Guardian: “Too often when we look at inequality we focus exclusively on the vital issue of asset wealth, but actually just as pernicious is the inequality of capacity and capability – the unequal chances of realising potential.
“I will work with London’s boroughs to help refocus London’s network of 400 children’s centres to their founding purpose: providing the support that parents need throughout this important time in their child’s development.
“Families bring up children, but families who are coping with a range of disadvantages so often long for help and support in what can be a lonely time. Some mothers do not have the confidence to be their baby’s first teacher.”
Jowell added: “There is a progressive rise in inequality in this city, revealed by increasing child poverty, the number of parents doing two jobs, a decline in home ownership. Over four years, I know we could improve the life chances of a generation of children.”
She said successive studies had shown that successful early nurture was the proven route to helping children in later life, and the body of evidence had grown more comprehensive since Sure Start was first launched. “Not to act on what we now know would be negligent. Inequality begins in the squandered potential of childhood.”