Former Labour education secretary David Blunkett called in on Exeter Primary School and Children’s Centre today (Monday, October 15) to meet parents, children and staff.
He was on the campaign trail with Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for the Corby and East Northants seat, Andy Sawford.
Mr Blunkett, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough and also a former Home Secretary, was responsible for the introduction of the Sure Start programme and heard how the children’s centre, in Brayford Avenue, provides vital services and support for families in the town.
He said: “I am delighted to be at the centre and find out what goes on here to help children and families.
“It is just the sort of facility that should not be hit by austerity cuts.”
With a report out today claiming families are £8 a month worse off than they were a year ago, Mr Blunkett heard how the centre is helping stretch household budgets by organising cookery sessions and offering advice.
Family support worker Jenny Brennan said: “Families are struggling to make ends meet and we try to point people in the right direction for help. The rising cost of living is a real issue.”
Exeter Children’s Centre provides a range of services and activities, from play sessions and a young parents group to a midwife clinic and educational courses.
It also runs a drop-in family health group and sessions for dads and their children.
The centre provides an outreach service for 1,500 families with children under five, compared with the average figure for other centres of 700 to 800.
When asked how he would ensure that funding continues for the centre’s work, Mr Sawford said; “I will always be an advocate of children’s centres and the work they do. We have a Conservative Government and a Conservative county council, so I can’t promise you money, but I can promise you my support. I will work alongside people, enabling them to have a voice and be heard.”
Mr Blunkett was taken round the school and children’s centre by headteacher Ellen Wallace.