Transforming Early Years and the battle against child poverty

January 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm 1 comment

By Lesley Anne Gundy

In light of the current financial climate and austerity measures, the issue of child poverty has been pushed to the media forefront. Last month, The Guardian, wrote that the government’s austerity measures and budget cuts would worsen child poverty over the course of the next few years. This article followed a report entitled, ‘The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults’ by the Frank Field MP led commission Review on Poverty and Life Chances. The report focuses on what can be done to ensure children living in poverty do not face a lifelong disadvantage.

 Placing  great emphasis on what it calls ‘the foundation stage’ or from fetal development to age five, the commission recommends that the government gradually directs funding to the early years. It stresses that engaging parents is the key to mitigating child poverty and ensuring that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are not hampered in the future. Citing parents as the greatest influence on child achievement, the report specifically asserts that Children Centres should do more to reach and support the most disadvantaged families. Informal networks composed of volunteers and run by the community are singled out as important deliverers of support for families. The report uses a case study of a programme called Community Parents, a home based service in which volunteers share knowledge and provide support. Through this case study, the report argues that these types of programmes provide useful support to families who fall through the cracks when it comes to more traditional services and interventions while also building informal community networks.

The timing of reports such as Field’s reinforces the work being undertaken in the Transforming Early Years project. NESTA and the Innovation Unit could not have picked a better time to explore the early years and help localities to deliver better and different services for less money. The report also reinforces the ideas generated by the sites. The sites have been working really hard to develop services that would address the challenges facing disadvantaged and disengaged families in their communities. They are currently in the protoyping stage after completing service design blueprints that detailed the way in which users would interact with the service if successful. While each of the sites have developed unique services, we have noticed some common themes: peer relationships, volunteering and building community capacity. All of their ideas focus on accessibility without the stigma and seek to build the types of support systems Field has highlighted as crucial in ensuring disadvantaged children have a chance to break the cycle of poverty.

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Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services.

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