Welfare to Work

Councils charging for ‘free’ children’s centres

Councils charging for ‘free’ children’s centres

One in five Sure Start centres has started charging parents for sessions that used to be offered free.

A report published by 4Children exposes how councils are being forced to cut back on services as a result of budget cuts, with many centres relying on volunteers as they heavily reduce numbers of childcare workers and qualified teachers. Fees are being levied on middle class families as a way of subsidising what is on offer for the poorest, it adds.

The findings come from a “census” of children’s centres by the charity 4Children. It reveals that:

  •  majority of centres have reduced staffing levels;
  • 17 per cent plan to cut childcare workers in the next year. A similar number will lay-off qualified teachers;
  • six out of ten have increased the number of volunteers;
  • 50 per cent of centres say their “financial sustainability” has worsened in the past year,

One in ten centres — about 350 — say they are “struggling” financially.

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