Manchester

Manchester Sure Start children's centres to stay open

Campaigners in Albert Square, Manchester
Image caption Fears the centres would close sparked protests last year

Sure Start children's centres in Manchester are to stay open despite government cuts to the council budget.

The 39 centres, which provide advice and support for parents, will now stay open for longer and also cater for children older than pre-school age.

Council-run daycare for the under-fives will be phased out, however, as the council still has to save £22.1m from its early years provision.

The plans will go before a town hall scrutiny committee next week.

They will then be considered by the council's executive on 15 February.

Hundreds of people demonstrated outside Manchester Town Hall last February, over fears the centres would close.

The plans were drawn up after a three-month consultation involving more than 8,000 meetings with parents, which attracted more than 4,000 written responses with parents, schools, health staff and others.

'Affordable daycare'

The council hopes that as well as providing Sure Start services, the centres will become community hubs offering a wider range of services to people of all ages, including early years services.

Outreach work with families with young children, which have already been piloted in parts of the city, will be extended, it said.

The council, working closely with GPs, midwives and health visiting services, will aim to visit every child at home during the child's first three years.

It said this would help identify which families needed extra help and support.

The council said the 809 council-run daycare places it provides would be phased out over the next few years.

Mike Livingstone, director of children's services, Manchester City Council, said: "Our analysis shows there is already enough good quality and affordable daycare provision across the city being provided by the private, voluntary and independent sector, so over time we will no longer need to provide it ourselves.

"What we do need to do however is to ensure that the right kind of quality daycare is available in the right places, so we're going to spend the next two years making sure this happens.

"We will only stop providing daycare in different parts of the city when we are satisfied that there is enough high quality alternative provision to meet the needs of local families."

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