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Children's Centres

Volume 407: debated on Monday 23 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many children's centres have opened in each year since 1997; where they are located; what links they have with pre-school learning in disadvantaged areas; and if he will make a statement; [110774](2) what funding and technical support has been made available for establishing and running children's centres; and what plans he has to improve co-operation with local Sure Start programme plans. [110775]

In the 2002 Spending Review Settlement the Government announced plans to reach, by March 2006, at least 650,000 pre-school children living in the 20 per cent. most disadvantaged wards in England through integrated children's centres. We are making available £435 million over the next three years to achieve this. The children's centres will provide integrated care and early education for young children together with health and family support services.These centres are intended to bring together and build on the practice learned from other initiatives. This means that, where possible, they will develop from Sure Start local programmes and other existing services such as Early Excellence Centres and Neighbourhood Nurseries.Guidance was issued to eligible local authorities in February 2003 on developing strategic plans for developing their children's centres. Since then, regional Sure Start teams based in the Government Offices have been providing support and advice on how to put these plans together.The first centres to be named children's centres will be announced in June 2003. These early designations will be existing settings that already meet the core offer for children's centres now. They will provide models to guide the development of new services. Local authorities are due to submit their strategic plans by 15 October 2003 and we expect further announcements to follow throughout the autumn.