Reducing Inequality-The Sure Start Scheme

More than ever, inequality is a pressing issue limiting economic growth in many areas across the UK. To determine the effect of inequality on development, it could perhaps be tackled at the potential cause rather than trying to correct a pre-existing issue.

Sure Start was a programme introduced under the last Labour Government aimed at supporting the youngest in society to help limit inequality in the future. The Sure Start scheme was a landmark initiative aimed at enhancing the well-being and development of children in their early years. This program was designed to provide a wide range of services, support, and opportunities to families with young children, particularly those in disadvantaged communities. It was wound back during the austerity programme post-2011.


One of the critical components of the Sure Start scheme was its commitment to providing high-quality early childhood education. The programme established Early Years Centres, where children could engage in educational activities that lay the foundation for future learning. The focus on early education showed positive effects, narrowing the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more affluent peers. As a result, more children from underprivileged backgrounds were likely to advance to further education, which statistically they were less likely to do without the support from the scheme.

Sure Start adopted a comprehensive approach, acknowledging the integral role of a child's environment in shaping their growth. The program prioritised family support, offering parenting classes, childcare services, and health interventions. Sure Start aimed to create a nurturing environment that positively influenced a child's overall development by addressing the needs of parents and caregivers. As a result, children from deprived backgrounds could be brought up in an environment which enabled them to grow both socially and educationally, reducing inequality both in and out of the classroom environment.

Benefits of the scheme include:

Beyond individual families, Sure Start extended its reach to foster a sense of community. Community-based initiatives, including local events, support groups, and collaborative projects, created a dynamic and supportive network that enhanced social cohesion. This deliberate community engagement strengthened the program's impact and aligned with the broader goal of building resilient communities. Sure Start aimed to create environments where families could thrive collectively by nurturing a sense of belonging and shared responsibility.

Despite its positive impact, Sure Start has faced significant setbacks since 2011. Due to shifting governmental priorities and restricted budgets, the scheme has seen many centres closing, preventing some from accessing the services and reducing effectiveness. This questions whether the diminished service will create the same impacts in its current form. Also, even in areas where the scheme is available, it is up to the parents whether to take advantage of the services, meaning not all children may be impacted equally by the Scheme.


Overall, when the service was widely available, the Sure Start scheme was very impactful, addressing the issues of inequality from the root. However, it must be noted that without sufficient funding and support, such schemes cannot fully reach their goal of tackling inequality. The project has demonstrated why inclusive economic strategies must consider early years, communities, and families in a consistent and long-term manner to be effective.

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