Today Labour MP Frank Field's report for the government on child poverty was released. The report makes some sweeping suggestions and criticises the former government's approach of viewing poverty simply as a lack of money. Here are the main suggestions made:
The government should establish a set of “Life Chance Indicators” to measure our progress on making life chances more equal for all children. These will measure the cognitive, physical and emotional development between the ages of three and five, which the report says determine outcomes later in life. The government would publish the indicators yearly at both a national and local level. They are envisaged as a way of holding service providers to account.
The report proposes a tripartite educational system, with a new focus on The Foundation Years — a stage from conception to five years old. The others elements are the “school years” and “Higher, Further and Continuing education” stages. The single objective of the new Foundation Years services is to improve the life chances of poorer children. Providers will be paid according to their success in narrowing class differences.
The report proposes that schools should teach parenting and life skills to pupils of all ages, and suggests that there is demand from pupils for such classes. This is because the report thinks that parental care in the foundation years is the “key factor” in a child’s development.
A new cabinet post should be created for Foundation Years at the next cabinet reshuffle.
Future governments should consider freezing child benefit and instead using the money saved to invest in Foundation Years services.
Contracts to run SureStart centres should be opened up to the market so that private companies can bid to run them.
An online forum for parental discussions should be established — described as “working-class version of Mumsnet”.