The Labour election victory of May 1997 provided an opportunity to change policy. Theintention was to place the improvement of people's lives at the centre of governmentstrategy. The Government wanted to break the cycle whereby disadvantaged childrenrepeated their parents' experiences of poor education, physical and mental ill-health, andpoverty.At this time the notion of 'joined-up' services was in vogue, and Prime Minister TonyBlair commented in the Foreword to the first Comprehensive Spending Review of histenure (Blair 1998) that 'We have looked at key problems across government. The olddepartmental boundaries often do not work. Provision for young children-health,childcare, support-will be co-ordinated across departments so that when children startschool they are ready to learn.'Here we describe the development of the Sure Start Programme for children and reportthe findings of the national evaluation. This has been a key component of the Government'spolicy to breaking the cycle of deprivation.