Social workers should be more involved in efforts to tackle child poverty in the UK, according to the co-chair of the National College of Social Work.
At a fringe session today at the Liberal Democrats’ party conference, Corinne May-Chahal said high numbers of referrals to social services concern child poverty. There was, however, more potential for social workers to be involved in discussions about child poverty, she said.
May-Chahal called for more co-ordinated efforts by joined-up services. This would reap benefits and achieve better outcomes for the thousands of children living in poverty in the UK, she said.
Children’s minister Sarah Teather told delegates at the same session that the coalition was committed to eradicating child poverty in the UK by 2020. She said social workers were often overwhelmed by child protection work and needed to be supported to explore other areas.
Teather said she was optimistic about the work poverty tsar Frank Field was doing for the government, including the development of a life chances index to measure progress on eradicating child poverty.
“We will use this as a system of accountability for ourselves to see how well we’re doing against our promises,” she said. The index will measure government progress on key issues, including those affecting “children’s ability to be ready for school following early years work, to stay in school and to get a good job”, she said.
Teather criticised the former government for allowing inequality between the UK’s richest and poorest to worsen and social mobility to stall. She said addressing the balance had to be a priority for the government. “A child’s birth, or their parents’ income, should never determine their fate,” she said.
But she said child poverty would not be eradicated simply by giving families more money and making changes to income tax. Instead early years services would be reformed so that the most vulnerable children and families received the most support.
Thousands more health visitors would work with Sure Start and children’s centres. “We want to encourage more families to come into centres through outreach work and we will target those families that need most support,” she said.
Teather also revealed that the government was exploring methods of payment by results in order to incentivise children’s centres.
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