Let's hear how the mayoral candidates will support early years in London

June O'Sullivan
Monday, April 19, 2021

On May 6, we will be invited to vote in a new Mayor for London and 25 members of the London Assembly – one year later than planned.

Together, they make up the Greater London Authority (GLA), which governs the Capital and our daily lives to some extent.

With a whopping budget of £19bn, the Mayor is responsible for Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police and has an active role in housing, planning and the environment as well as limited powers over the response to disease outbreak emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the work done by the current Mayor was set out in a big document called the London Plan. It took three years to write and was published earlier this month.

The Early Years (EY) section on the plan refers to the work that has already been completed such as the three London EY hubs, the EY Leadership Programme and the EY Business Partnership.Whilst much of the campaigns are based on post Covid recovery, I wanted to know what the new Mayor will and can do to help address the 600,000 children living in poverty – many of which have been exacerbated by Covid-19?

The plan acknowledges that child poverty is unacceptable and states that with the right support and opportunities, families can escape poverty. Sadly, the pandemic has shone a light on the grim reality of child poverty in the UK. Prior to this, 4.3 million children were growing up trapped in poverty. New research from the Resolution Foundation predicts that by the time of the next General Election, 730,000 more young people will be caught in poverty’s grip.

Sadiq Khan made it clear in the London Plan that we can end child poverty in London if we help the poorest families to raise their incomes and therefore help parents work.  That requires us to deliver more childcare, not least given the findings from the report produced by our current Mayor in February which suggested  that 64% of early years nursery providers in London are at risk of closure.

So we need the new Mayor to make it clear that supporting the Early Years is an essential part of our city infrastructure. This would align with the recent pronouncement from the newly appointed Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza that early years needed a rocket boost and Sir Kevan Collins the School Recovery Czar stating that the Early Years has got to be central to the recovery plan.

So, my top 5 questions to the London Mayoral candidates are:

  • How will you support the early years to support London’s infrastructure?

  • How will you support early years as a route to tackling child poverty?

  • Given child obesity is linked to child poverty, how will you increase cycling among children under five?

  • What will you do to reduce childhood obesity?

  • What will you do to build a sustainability policy that begins in the early years?

June O’Sullivan is chief executive of LEYF. This blog was first published on the LEYF website.

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