In his inaugural speech as prime minister, Gordon Brown pledged to bring together “all the forces of compassion” to end child poverty by 2020.
It sounded rather hackneyed until he unveiled the super ministry for children last week. The Department for Education and Skills is no more, with its responsibilities divided between the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. In addition to schools, the DCSF will take charge of the Respect agenda from the Home Office, and have joint responsibility for child poverty, health, youth justice and sport.
And Ed Balls – already a seasoned campaigner for disabled children and Gordon Brown’s closest political ally – has been put in charge. It’s clear that the prime minister means business following last year’s embarrassing rise in the number of children living in relative poverty.
With all these policy areas under one roof, the new secretary of state has unprecedented control over shaping the lives of children.
Let’s hope he doesn’t forget the importance of parenting in tackling poverty and crime and promoting social mobility. Despite the benefits of parenting support services, as evidenced by our special coverage this week (starting on p16), many struggle to secure the funding to survive.
With the Respect agenda moving to the DCSF, there is an opportunity to develop inclusive parenting services that are pre-emptive. Such services, alongside a reinvigorated Sure Start, tax credit and child benefit system and extended school programme might just get the government’s great social justice mission back on track.
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