Social Exclusion

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 16th May 2007.

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Photo of Siôn Simon Siôn Simon Labour, Birmingham, Erdington 11:30 am, 16th May 2007

What estimate she has made of the cost of intervening in the early years of a child's life to prevent social exclusion.

Photo of Anne Snelgrove Anne Snelgrove PPS (Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State), Department of Health

What assessment she has made of the balance of costs and benefits of intervening in the early years of a child's life to prevent social exclusion.

Photo of Hilary Armstrong Hilary Armstrong Minister of State, Cabinet Office, Minister (Cabinet Office) and Minister (Social Exclusion) and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Early intervention is a guiding principle of the social exclusion action plan. The report highlighted the relative costs and benefits of the rigorously tested nurse-family partnership programme from the United States that provides intensive home visiting services by health visitors to disadvantaged mothers from pregnancy until a child is two years old. The evaluation showed that for every $1 invested in the US, $5 was saved down the line. The Government are considering what can be learned from that early intervention approach, with pilots of the programme being launched in 10 sites across England.

Photo of Siôn Simon Siôn Simon Labour, Birmingham, Erdington

As the nurse-family partnerships have been tremendously successful in America and are acclaimed by midwives and nurses in this country in working-class communities such as mine, does my right hon. Friend agree with Mr. Cameron, who has dismissed them as foetal ASBOs, or does she think that he should stick to what he knows: well-paid nannies, interior-designed home nurseries and silver spoon—

Photo of Hilary Armstrong Hilary Armstrong Minister of State, Cabinet Office, Minister (Cabinet Office) and Minister (Social Exclusion) and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

The Tory party knows that Mr. Cameron made a mistake and it is looking at the matter again, and I hope that today it will give us its commitment to work with us on this. I met some mothers and nurses yesterday in Slough and I met David Olds with the Prime Minister this morning. It is an incredibly successful programme that is being embraced with real enthusiasm by health visitors and midwives here, and I hope that we can demonstrate that by working with the most disadvantaged we can help them to turn round their lives and the lives of their children.

Photo of Anne Snelgrove Anne Snelgrove PPS (Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State), Department of Health

As antisocial behaviour is a product of social exclusion, which is causing many problems in my constituency and throughout the country, what examples of good practice could my right hon. Friend give my local council in Swindon to help it to learn from that and so tackle antisocial behaviour through social exclusion?

Photo of Hilary Armstrong Hilary Armstrong Minister of State, Cabinet Office, Minister (Cabinet Office) and Minister (Social Exclusion) and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

The nurse-family partnership has been used in America for almost 30 years and has demonstrated that by the time children who have participated in the scheme are 15, they are between 50 and 60 per cent. less likely to be involved with the criminal justice system in any way. The programme has been well evaluated and we are working hard on the pilot schemes to see what we can learn. I hope that my hon. Friend's constituents, local authority and primary care trust will look at what we will be able to achieve and help us to mainstream the programme so that towns such as Swindon can benefit.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury

One way in which the Government are intervening in early years to help social exclusion is through children's tax credits and the working family tax credit. The right hon. Lady must recognise that Members of Parliament are still receiving significant numbers of parents at their surgeries who have problems with those tax credits. May we copy those cases to the right hon. Lady, not because we expect her to solve them, but in the hope that, being a fair-minded Minister, she might start to recognise that there are some generic issues that she might take up with those of her Cabinet colleagues who are responsible for such tax credits?

Photo of Hilary Armstrong Hilary Armstrong Minister of State, Cabinet Office, Minister (Cabinet Office) and Minister (Social Exclusion) and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

I frequently have conversations with colleagues in the Treasury and I know that there is the occasional problem, but that overall the scheme massively benefits those parents who are obtaining work, many of them for the first time, and can now earn sufficient money to make work pay so that they can do the best by their children. Those programmes will help parents to obtain the confidence and skills to get back into work so that they, too, can do the best by their children.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown PPS (Mr Phil Woolas, Minister of State), Department for Communities and Local Government

My right hon. Friend has spoken well about the impact of the nurse-family partnership scheme, but given that Tower Hamlets, my neighbouring borough, has been lucky enough to have one of the 10 pilot schemes, when might we see an equal amount of assistance and help for my constituency?

Photo of Hilary Armstrong Hilary Armstrong Minister of State, Cabinet Office, Minister (Cabinet Office) and Minister (Social Exclusion) and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Many hon. Members, and certainly their constituents, are asking that question. We have overwhelming interest in this pilot programme, with more than 40 per cent. of the country applying for it. We are determined that we will learn the lessons as quickly as we can about what changes are needed within our systems. The Department of Health, which is leading on the implementation of the programme, is considering health visiting and midwifery services to see how they can mainstream the important aspect of ensuring that we pick up, at the earliest stage, those parents who are vulnerable and give them the support they need.