Sure Start children’s centres substantially benefit the health of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, closing the gap in hospital admission rates between the poorest and richest areas by half, research has found. A study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) showed that in areas with the best access to children’s centres – measured as one centre per 1,000 children aged 0-4 – there were 5,500 fewer hospital admissions per year compared with pre-Sure Start levels. This represented a reduction of 18 per cent on levels recorded before Sure Start was introduced 20 years ago. The IFS research suggests that the benefits of children’s centres are greatest among children living in disadvantaged areas – no effect was found on hospital admission rates in the richest 30 per cent of neighbourhoods. The findings mean that providing access to Sure Start at 2010 levels closes the gap in hospitalisation rates between the 30 per cent poorest and richest areas by around a half at the end of primary school. Read more.