Wednesday, July 7, 1999 Published at 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK
Birthday parties to aid fight against child poverty
Sure Start is aimed at children aged 0 to 4
Children from deprived communities will be given birthday parties to remember under a government scheme to reduce poverty.
A project which promotes birthday parties and singing lessons for the most deprived is just one of 30 new Sure Start projects launched by the government on Wednesday.
They form part of a three-year £450m plan to give children up to the age of four a more equal start in life.
Chancellor Gordon Brown announced the 30 - which add to 20 launched in April - at a conference in London.
He said the scheme, a multi-agency initiative, would eventually help 800,000 children living in the most deprived areas of England.
"Child poverty is a scar on the soul of Britain," he stated.
"It is time to develop all of the potential of all of our children.
"Improving public services - health visitors, nurseries, playgroups, child care, learning support - in the poorest communities is vital to tackling child poverty."
Research shows that poverty has a dire effect on children's health and development.
Poor nutrition, for example, can lead to low birthweight babies, which leads to greater risk of other health problems in later life.
Sure Start, which will eventually include 250 projects, aims to cut the numbers of low weight babies by 5% and to reduce the number of children who are put back on the child protection register by 10%.
The government selects Sure Start areas based on whether they have high teenage pregnancy levels and a low average birthweight.
Public health minister Tessa Jowell said: "The programme must improve the development of children aged between 0-4 in the most deprived areas of the country.
"We owe families nothing less."
The 30 new projects include:
Another project in Enfield, north London, led by a voluntary sector family centre, will focus on health visitors, drop-in centres for parents and locally generated ideas such as singing classes and birthday parties.
All new parents in the area will get a visit within two months of the birth of their baby, advising of services available to them.