Investing in the next generation

Investing in the next generation

Labour National Policy Forum 2022 Consultation Process
A report and discussion paper by Jane Darling, FHCLP Secretary

A future where families come first: delivering financial, social and housing security

Editor’s note: the title of the discussion is one chosen by the Policy Forum;
this article focuses on the issues from the perspective of supporting all children and young people. We acknowledge that for some, the prioritisation of families may unintentionally seem to place lesser value on individuals or those living in single households.

This year, the third of the consultation process, 6 documents were published on the following areas for consideration by members:

  • A green and digital future
  • Better jobs and better work 
  • Safe and secure communities
  • Public services that work from the start
  • A future where families come first
  • Britain in the world

To access the NPF documents click here: policyforum.labour.org.uk

Round table discussions are being held for each of these policy areas. The opinions given by members in these discussions will be collated and will help to form the final policy documents which will be used at Conference in September.

On 28th June, I attended the roundtable on “A future where families come first”. 

I have written a response to the discussion, summarising the main points, see below. I intend to submit this response to the NPF. Should you have further points or suggestions you would like me to include, please email me on: comms@fhlabour.org

The Roundtable discussion began with an introduction by Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and Norwood. She spoke of the enormity of the task to help the children of every family thrive – for example a massive commitment to early years funding, mental health provision, ending waiting lists for Child Adolescent and Mental Health involvement.

She spoke of the waste of potential and the huge burden of ongoing costs to the state of prolonged care for people who have not had the benefit of the ‘best start in life’.

Following this we broke into 4 groups to put forward our own thoughts and concerns on this policy area. My group was composed of a diverse group of people in terms of age and ethnicity. Most of those who contributed had relevant professional experience in working with children and families. 

Each group worked their way through as many of the 5 questions we were asked to address which were:

1. What changes are needed to the social security system to help tackle the cost of living crisis and to ensure the system tackles poverty, makes work pay and provides genuine security?

2. What can be done to ensure secure and decent housing for all?

3. How can the next Labour government give children the best start in life and what changes are needed to ensure all children have access to high-quality, affordable childcare? 

4. How can we ensure young people have choices and chances and are able to take the steps they want towards economic and social independence? 

5. How can we ensure equalities are at the heart of all of our policies and that equality impact assessments are fully utilised?

The following reflects my own ideas and responses of others in the group discussion.

My core belief is that the well-being of children and young people should be at the heart of government policy. 

If all government policy, across every government department is designed from answers to the question “What do our children need to thrive and become responsible, resilient and creative members of our society and communities?”  we would have a happier, healthier and more productive nation.

Children born today or yesterday first and foremost need security: 

  • Environmental security; to grow up without having to fear that the planet is going to become inhospitable in their lifetimes. 
  • Safe and Secure communities: Children should be able to have the freedom to go out and play without fear, with safe access to play areas, preferably with some paid supervision. Parents and carers need to have decent jobs which allow good work/life balance to allow for time to spend with their children to ensure adequate care and to keep them safe.
  • Safe and Secure homes: A multi-agency approach should be taken to try to ensure that children are safe at home with their families or in the care of the local authority
  • Housing security : a settled, adequate home which their parents or carers can afford to furnish and keep warm. 
  • Financial security: a fair tax system and enough money coming in through decently paid and fair, secure jobs which provide a good work-life balance for all parents or carers allowing time and energy to spend with their children. A benefits system that treats people with respect making  adequate payments, paid promptly and reliably.A more flexible system so that people who rely on benefits are able to have the security of knowing that if the job they take doesn’t work out,  they will be able to go straight back onto benefit without having to make a fresh claim. 
  • Health Security: access to health support from the cradle to the grave, provided safe maternity care, by pre and post-natal care milestone checks, schools medical services, good access to a family doctor, free dental care.
  • Education Security: a fully funded public education service maintained by the Local authority to level the provision of education from birth, the early years and throughout life. 

Public Services that work from the start:

Look back at public service provision post war to 2010 and bring back what worked and invest in those services to level up opportunity for all children eg. schools medical service, children’s clinics and Sure Start Centres, school play centres.

Too many of our children are hampered by a poor start in life due to the circumstances and histories of their parents. 

I would like to see the following:

  1. Investment in a pre-birth service aimed at offering to all new parents the chance to share and learn from others about how to give their children the best start in life; to build support groups in their neighbourhoods which could empower parents and give them the confidence to deal with the services they will need to access during their children’s education. 
  2. Investment in an integrated Early Years Service for all children and their parents going across physical and mental health care, social services and education would mitigate the damage caused by the inequalities in our society by building relationships and supporting the families of the children it serves through multi-agency work, seeking to empower parents. Early concerns about physical, mental, intellectual, social and emotional development could be addressed. 
  3. Investment in a comprehensive Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Service, adequate for the needs of all children and young people who need it, and provide follow-on into supported further education and employment in order to develop and employ the skills and abilities of this neglected, marginalised group. 
  4. Investment in an Education, Skills and Training Service and an apprentice scheme which provides opportunities for young people (and those who wish to retrain) in all professions, trades, and crafts to fully utilise the potential of our workforce.
  5. Schools as a hub in the community, involving their pupils in the life of their communities with community engagement and service built into the curriculum. Schools could provide support for the people and by the people with projects like after school activities, youth clubs, sports facilities, exercise classes, dinner clubs, discussion groups and opportunities for lifelong learning.

Our children are our future. Every pound we invest in their well-being and welfare will pay dividends in money saved later by the health services, benefit agencies, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, the Probation and Prison Services, and lost productivity.

Early childhood development is one of the best investments governments can make in a society’s future. It not only helps children and families thrive, it helps break cycles of poverty and inequality and contributes to happier, healthier populations.

This Tory government is failing our children and young people by years of serious neglect in their duty of care.

We have a chance to fundamentally change things. Please make policy which will put children at the heart of the joined up thinking and working which will achieve the changes we need to produce happy, fulfilled and productive citizens.

Jane Darling 

July, 2022

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