Final Report

The final report of the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances, conducted by Frank Field, was published on December 3rd 2010. The report sets out a new approach to meeting the Government’s target of abolishing child poverty. Click here to read the final report, The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults [PDF, 850KB]. 

 

Press release from the Rt Hon Frank Field MP: a new strategy to abolish child poverty

A new strategy to meet the Government’s target of abolishing child poverty is detailed today in the report, The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults. Commissioned by the Prime Minister the report is published by the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances, conducted by Frank Field.
 
There are huge class differences in the range of children’s abilities measurable on their first day at school. For many poor children life’s race is by then already effectively over.
 
The report has two overarching recommendations. To prevent poor children from becoming poor adults the Review proposes establishing a set of Life Chances Indicators that will measure how successful we are as a country in making life’s outcomes more equal for all children.
 
To drive this policy of raising life chances the Review proposes establishing the first pillar of a new tripartite education system: the Foundation Years, covering the period conception to five. The Foundation Years will then lead into the school years, leading to further, higher and continuing education.
 
The single objective of the Foundation Years will be to improve the life chances of poor children. Foundation Years’ services will be paid according to their success in narrowing class differences as children start school.
 
Parents are the key drivers in determining their children’s life chances. It is not so much who parents are – what their jobs are – but what parents do – how they nurture their children – which, the evidence shows, determines a child’s life’s race. The whole of the Foundation Years’ activities will focus on enabling all parents to move into the ‘what parents do’ category and so underpin the success of their children.
 
The report proposes, in response to young people’s demands, that schools should teach parenting and life skills throughout the whole of their school life. Pupils will begin to learn how they can advance the lives of their children when they start a family. Ante natal and post natal courses should continue providing this information, as should Sure Start, in its new form.
 
The contracts for Sure Start Mark II should be put out to tender so that GPs, voluntary bodies, housing associations, schools and the staff themselves are able to bid for contracts, where the payments will be linked to reaching the hardest to reach and most vulnerable parents, working with them consistently, and ensuring that their children are ready for school on their first day.
 
The report further proposes that in future governments should not automatically each year increase benefits for children. Instead, they should consider if money to be spent in automatically increasing benefit rates, could not, in that year, be used more effectively to widen life chances – and thereby defeat child poverty – by building up the Foundation Years.
 
The construction of the Life Chances Indicators will measure at the national level children’s cognitive, physical and emotional development at the ages of three and five. These factors all determine outcomes later in life.
 
The Life Chances Indicators should be published each year by the Government so that taxpayers can see what progress is being made in preventing poor children from becoming poor adults. These Indicators should similarly be calculated at a local level, so that individual parents can know how their children are progressing. The local indices would also show taxpayers whether their local authority is running the Foundation Years effectively to expand the life chances of poorer children.
 
The report sets out for the Government a new strategy for abolishing child poverty. It is simultaneously a policy for social mobility, in that it should result in today’s poor children gaining the skills to acquire highly paid jobs. The strategy over time will therefore change the shape of the distribution of income in this country by eliminating the larger numbers of people who currently leave school to face at best a life time of low pay or at worse unemployment.