The government’s own figures say there are now 124 fewer Sure Start centres than there were when the coalition took office.
Sure Start Centres provide childcare, play opportunities for under fives as well as support for parents such as healthcare and job training.
For children, for parents, for the poorest families headed-up by single parents, and women in particular they have been — or at least could have been — a life line.
Before the last election Cameron said, “Not only do we back Sure Start, but we will improve it, because at the moment the people who need Sure Start the most — disadvantaged families — are not getting enough of the benefit.”
But services for children and youth were some of hardest hit in last year’s round of local government cuts.
With the new year will come a second round of council cuts. Many more of the 3,500 centres will close or be merged with others.
These centres, despite usual problems with bureaucratic “delivery”, were made stronger by the fact they were universal — intended for entire communities — rather than for the “most needy”. Services that are “designed” for the most needy are services that are cut to the bone.
How cuts like these — against the background of a worsening economic crisis — will affect the everyday lives of working-class people and working-class women in particular will be the central discussion of the AWL’s conference “Is this as Good As it Gets?” on 26 November.
This crisis, and how the left and the labour movement responds, will define political life for us all for years and maybe decades into this century. The political problems thrown up by the new conditions will be complex, varied and require us to educate ourselves. That is the aim of this conference.
While we know the cuts will disproportionately affect women, in the main working-class women, the existing response from “mainstream” labour movement and feminist organisations, are passive and weak. This weekend a Fawcett Society demonstration will march in defence of women’s rights. Yes, we will march for that! But the main plank of their campaigning is for a judicial review of the budget.
We need much more: bloody-minded fights against cuts in every area, occupations of Children’s Centres if threatened with closure, labour-movement based campaigns that focus on those that will be hardest hit.
How do we get there? Come along to the conference and take part in the discussion!