Government has ‘taken little action’ to address child disadvantage

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Social Mobility Commission’s new report ‘Monitoring Social Mobility’ highlights ‘poor progress’ in improving disadvantaged children’s outcomes and is calling for the launch of a dedicated Government unit to ensure its recommendations are delivered.

Early years funding is key to addressing disadvantage.
Early years funding is key to addressing disadvantage.

Around 600,000 more children are living in relative poverty compared to eight years ago according to latest research from the Social Mobility Commission.

It warns that this situation could get markedly worse as the country tries to recover from
Covid-19.

Along with poverty, other areas of ‘major concern’ include the early years – with 45 per cent of the workforce living on tax credits or benefits – and issues around health inequalities and race linked to socio-economic background, which have also been exposed by Covid-19.

The commission says more progress is needed in a range of areas including:

  • Poverty – 600,000 more children are now living in relative poverty than in 2012 and this is projected to increase further due to benefit changes and coronavirus, it says in its report
  • Schools – at 16, only 24.7 per cent of disadvantaged students get a good pass in English and Maths GCSE compared with 49.9 per cent of all other pupils
  • Employment – half of all adults from the poorest backgrounds receive no training at all after leaving school
  • Health – life expectancy is falling for women in the most deprived 10 per cent of areas, the commission says, and health inequalities linked to socio-economic background have been exposed by coronavirus

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said it is particularly concerning that on the question of developing a long-term strategy focused on improving outcomes for disadvantaged children, the report found that the Government had taken ‘little or no action’ in the past seven years.

‘All children, regardless of their background, should be able to have the best possible start in life, and yet we know that children from less affluent backgrounds often arrive at school already at a disadvantage compared to their peers. Clearly, tackling this issue must be a priority for government going forward.

‘It is disappointing, however, that while the Commission calls for the eligibility criteria for the 30-hours funded childcare offer to be widened to include more families on lower incomes, it fails to acknowledge the impact of the sustained underfunding of so-called 'free entitlement’ offers on the ability of childcare providers to deliver affordable and sustainable care and education.

‘The fact is that a wholesale overhaul of the early years funding system is required to ensure that those families most in need of support are able to access quality provision that is truly free at the point of use. Anything else is just tinkering around the edges.’

Read the report here

  

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