Government confirms life chances strategy has been dropped

By Neil Puffett

| 20 December 2016

A government strategy to boost the life chances of the poorest children in the country will not be published, the government has confirmed, with elements of it instead set to feature in a green paper to be published next year.

The life chances strategy had been due to contain future government policy on children's centres. Picture: Alex Deverill

Speaking in parliament, government minister Damian Hinds revealed that, instead, the government "intends to bring forward a social justice green paper in the new year".

He was responding to a question from Labour MP Dan Jarvis, who asked whether the government had plans to publish the life chances strategy, or a replacement, in 2016.

The life chances strategy, which was first announced by former Prime Minister David Cameron in January, was initially intended for publication in the spring.

The strategy had been due to feature measures designed to address child poverty, including a plan to significantly expand parenting provision, and potentially introduce a voucher scheme for parenting classes. The government had also said it would contain future policy on children's centres, a consultation on which had been due to launch in autumn 2015.

But in June it emerged that publication of the strategy had been placed on hold in the wake of the result of the EU referendum.

In July, the government said it "remained committed" to pursuing efforts to improve the life chances of disadvantaged children.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: "It's very disappointing to hear that the government's much-promoted life chances strategy has been quietly abandoned.

"All children, regardless of background, should have the best possible start in life, and the life chances strategy would have been an excellent opportunity to ensure that children from disadvantaged backgrounds in particular received the support they both need and deserve.

"We hope that the proposed new 'social justice strategy' is more than a broad, vague policy that is all ambition and no action, and urge the government to ensure that it contains a specific focus on addressing and mitigating the effect of poverty and disadvantage in childhood, with practical, tangible proposals on how to do so."

It has also emerged that the government's cross-departmental child poverty unit has been abolished.

Andy Elvin, chief executive of The Adolescent and Children's Trust (Tact), said: "The life chances strategy and the child poverty unit were the two planks of government approach to tackling the rampant inequality in the UK.

"By sidelining these and replacing them with a nebulous social justice paper the government have clearly shown they lack any meaningful commitment to improving life chances for families who are 'just about managing', let alone those who are not managing at all.

"Radical solutions, such as the basic minimum income, are required to address the entrenched social inequality in the UK." 

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