Adeela is a victim of domestic violence.
She has been ostracised by her family and threatened by her husband’s family. She fled, terrified, and spent six weeks sleeping on her friend’s couch. Her baby daughter developed health problems.
With nowhere else to turn, I introduced her to her local Sure Start Children’s Centre.
Here Adeela found friendship and support.
Parenting advice, education support and help with her housing and court cases.
She found friendly faces and willing advocates.
As a result, she now has safe accommodation and her baby’s health has improved.
Adeela is getting back on her feet.
The Government’s secret cut to the Early Intervention Grant places all these services in jeopardy.
The Early Intervention Grant funds Sure Start, as well as youth activities, mental health initiatives and targeted programmes to help the most troubled families. It’s one of those relatively rare pots of money that only funds unquestionably good causes.
And the Government is abolishing it.
Credit where it’s due: the Government is extending free nursery places to two year olds. This is great. Unfortunately they are funding this by pillaging £300m annually from the Early Intervention Grant.
This is robbing Peter to pay Paul: taking money from one great cause to pay for another.
This alone is bad enough. But sadly behind the smoke screen of the nursery places announcement, the Government is raiding a further £436m annually from Early Intervention services.
£286m of this is completely unexplained. It isn’t being reallocated to fund other services: it is a straightforward cut.
I will unashamedly declare an interest. Supporting young families is my biggest passion. I am proud to Chair two Sure Start Centres and I know that they work. They bring parents together and support them in raising their kids.
In Brent, forecasts suggest the cut to the Early Intervention Grant may cost us £1m-£1.5m. This is collosal.
We have been absorbing year on year cuts since this Government came to power. But a cuts of this magnitude are completely different.
A cut of £800k is equivalent to the annual running costs of all four of the Children’s Centres in Wembley. A cut of £1.1m would add the Centre in Chalkhill, in my own ward. And a cut of £1.5m would include the two Centres in nearby Kingsbury.
This is the worst cut of all. We will fight hard to protect services – but quite frankly, it makes my blood boil.
This is Government at its most cynical.
It is utterly two-faced Government. The Government continues to sing the praises of Early Intervention while slashing the funding of it. The cuts to the Early Intervention Grant were never announced, but were snuck out on page 140 of a technical guidance document. This is gutless political cowardice.
It is counterproductive Government. Early Intervention works. It is far more effective and far cheaper to nip a problem in the bud, than to let it fester. Invest in families and their kids before they reach the age of five and they are far more likely to be healthy, high achieving and law abiding.
Worst of all, it is unjust Government. Those who are in the greatest need will suffer the most. No-one is forced to visit a Sure Start Centre. These are not hostels for scroungers. The users are those who are trying their best to raise a family, but just need a helping hand.
Whilst writing this blog, Adeela called me. She broke down in tears because she’s worried about her daughter’s health again.
We can argue about the causes of these national spending cuts. But it is plain wrong that the burden of them should fall on shoulders as vulnerable as Adeela’s.
It’s not too late for the Government to reverse this, the worse cut of all. I pray they will come to their senses.
By the way, Adeela is a pseudonym I’ve used to protect the identity of the mum in question. I chose the name Adeela because it means honest, just, equal.
And that’s exactly how she should be treated by her Government: with honesty, justice and equality. Sadly the secret cut to the Early Intervention Grant is the absolute polar opposite.