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Number of Sure Start children's centres closing rises every year since 2010

The number of Sure Start children's centres closing has increased every year since 2010 with 156 shutting in 2015 alone, official statistics show.

Figures released by the Department for Education show that the number of closures in 2015 was almost double that recorded in 2014 when 85 ceased operation.

Labour's Dan Jarvis, the MP for Barnsley Central whose written parliamentary question led to the information being published, described the closures as "deeply concerning".

The statistics show there were no children's centre closures in 2010, 12 in 2011, 27 in 2012, 33 in 2013, 85 in 2014 and 156 in 2015.

Education minister Caroline Dinenage said in a written response to Mr Jarvis's question: "Local authorities have a duty to ensure there are sufficient centres to meet local need; and a duty to consult where changes are planned to local children's centre provision.

"As at 31 October 2016 there were 3,259 main children's centres and sites open to families and children providing children's centre services as part of a network."

Mr Jarvis said: "It is deeply concerning to learn of more children's Sure Start centres being closed than previously admitted.

"The minister should now come to Parliament to explain why this has happened.

"Sure Start centres are a proven success. They provide families with childcare in addition to being a one-stop-shop for extra support with things like healthcare or securing job opportunities.

"This shows how wrong the Conservatives' priorities are because every Sure Start centre that is lost closes a door on a child's chance to get on in life."

Mr Jarvis said that early intervention in the lives of children "should be the priority" because it is a "smart investment for the future".

"With child poverty set to rise by 50% over this Parliament, thousands of families will be affected by these closures," he said.

"We will all pay for this failure in years to come."

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said the closures meant "shutting the door in the faces of children who need help the most".

"As a former Sure Start mum, I know the difference these centres can make to working families and how they help get children on the right road to fulfilling their potential," she said.

"These closure figures are very worrying - they mean wasted opportunity for too many children."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Giving children the best start in life and supporting working families with the costs of childcare will help to ensure this is a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. We are investing record amounts in childcare, increasing spending to more than £6 billion by 2019-20.

"Many councils are merging centres to allow services to be delivered more efficiently. Where they decide to close a children's centre site, they must demonstrate that the outcomes for children would not be adversely affected and will not compromise the duty to have sufficient children's centres to meet local need."

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