Aspirations no longer in doubt

The spending review was another good one for children, with a
promise to establish 2,500 children’s centres by 2008, more
money to develop extended schools, investment in social housing and
a renewed commitment to tackling child poverty.

Gordon Brown’s commitment to ending the private misery and
social cost of mass poverty is now beyond doubt, although many will
argue that social divisions will not be healed without a fairer
redistribution of resources – an ideal firmly rejected by New
Labour. As Child Poverty Action Group chief Kate Green points out,
progress towards reducing poverty will become more challenging as
time goes on, and new strategies will be needed to reach the most
disadvantaged children. The spending review’s “long-term
aspiration” to improve financial support to large families is a
sign that the government has recognised this.

Welcome as the new money for children’s centres and
extended schools is, it is important that their development is not
rushed. The evaluation of extended school pilots stressed the
dangers inherent in trying to achieve too much too quickly with
such an ambitious and radical programme of change. It’s
especially important that local communities are genuinely involved
from the start if the new services are to hit their

target – children and families at risk of social exclusion. The
loathing with which statutory children’s social services are
viewed by disadvantaged parents should be a salutary reminder of
what can happen when other people claim to know what’s best
for them.

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