Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Newspaper column 20 January 2016 - The Life Chances Strategy

Last week the Prime Minister gave a speech on the Government’s Life Chances Strategy.  He outlined the principles that will be used to drive more detailed policies that will be announced later this year.   I have heard him speak on this topic in the past and his words strike a chord with me every time I listen to them.

He began the speech by laying out what he called the two forms of 20th century thinking;  “This fixation on welfare – the state writing a cheque to push people’s incomes just above the poverty line – this treated the symptoms, not the causes of poverty; and, over time, it trapped some people in dependency. 

The second approach is the more free market one – the idea that a rising tide will lift all boats.  Both approaches had one thing in common. They focused on the economics, and ignored the social.  They missed that human dimension to poverty: the social causes, the reasons people can get stuck, and become isolated.”

I agree with this analysis and wholeheartedly support the One Nation thinking that means that the Conservative Government will tackle the causes of poverty, both economic and social. 

The Prime Minister continued; “Work is – and always will be – the best route out of poverty and with welfare reform, Universal Credit, tax cuts and the introduction of the National Living Wage, we are making sure that it always pays to work.  And we’ll continue to tackle the scourge of worklessness in Britain including by reforming the way we support people who fall ill, so that they can stay in work and aren’t just consigned to a life stuck on benefits.”

The strengthening economy is important, but will only go so far, it is the social issues that need to be addressed and social issues are harder to tackle than economic ones.   

The Prime Minister identified the four strands of social reform that the Government will be focusing on; “First, we must think much more radically about improving family life and the early years. Second, when we know the importance not just acquiring knowledge, but also developing character and resilience there can be no let-up in our mission to create an education system that is genuinely fit for the 21st century.

“Third, it’s now so clear that social connections and experiences are vitally important in helping people get on. And fourth, when we know that so many of those in poverty have specific, treatable problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction, poor mental health we’ve got to offer the right support, including to those in crisis.” 

I agree with all of the sentiments, indeed I campaigned on them myself.  I remain convinced that support for parents and children in their early years helps pave the way for a life out of poverty; that education supports this aim and that improving social connections will help our young people to realize their dreams.  And when people need help, they should get it, we should fight to ensure that issues like mental health and addiction no longer carry a stigma, but are treated in the same way as other health issues. 

I am delighted that the Prime Minister has clearly set out his determination to address these causes of poverty and I look forward to working with him to bringing about the changes we need.