It's easy to be cynical, and I have no doubt that there are examples of poorly conceived Sure Start initiatives, but it is unusual to encounter this sort of positive, supportive, consensus, among cynical professional people. For example my midwife friend says 'for the first time I am passing on my needy mothers to people who can help them, instead of simply abandoning them to their fate'. My teacher friend says 'Parents who don't know how to sing nursery rhymes are learning how to do it'. A nursery manager said to me today 'A young woman who was already a grandma, and looking after her grandchildren because her daughter had run away, went to a needlework class. Now she is doing freelance upholstery work for neighbours.' Someone described to me a meeting for young mums where they learned how to brush their children's teeth. How much will that save in the long run, in pain and health and yes - in money.
I think sometimes middle class people don't realise how hard some people's lives are, and how small the investment that is needed to give people a chance to pull themselves out of despair. We would never allow complex machines to be scrapped just because they need a little bit of money to mend them, but we let human beings, infinitely more precious and versatile, rot - for want of a little bit of good food, a little bit of help. It doesn't take much - most people are self-supporting engines once they get going.
And it doesn't matter that 'people ought to already know how to brush their teeth'. Well, maybe they should but some people don't, and we have to think - what are we going to do about it? I am from a working class background. I could read before I went to school. But so what? What about the children who can't even use a toilet? Is it their fault? What is going to happen to them?
Anyway. I can't really express how good I think Sure Start is, but I am posting this because I think people need to know what left wing means, and what we will lose if we go back to the old days. We don't see these benefits in our daily semi-prosperous lives, but like the infrastructure that the Victorians built from public subscription, this support will deliver benefits to individuals, and our whole society, for decades to come.