To have a strong economy, we need a strong society. That is why I welcome the many references in the Gracious Speech to improving life chances, especially for the young and disadvantaged. The Children and Social Work Bill and the prisons and courts reform Bill are particularly welcome in helping to give a second chance to those who, in so many cases, never had a first chance.
Last week, the review of prison education by Dame Sally Coates, “Unlocking Potential”, proposed that to improve the life chances of prisoners, a holistic vision of education is needed for them, including family and relationship learning and practical advice on parenting and financial skills. It is heartening to note that the Government have agreed to implement the review in full.
Another excellent report that has also just been published is Lord Laming’s “In Care, Out of Trouble”, in which he says:
“Remedial work and rehabilitation are essential but prevention is so much more rewarding and fruitful for the young person and wider society.”
He says that good parenting “creates the solid foundation” to give the child the best start, and that the “essential ingredients” are security and stability. He says that
“in this context…young children develop self confidence, trust, personal and social values and optimism. Loss, neglect or trauma at this early stage in life often result in profound and enduring consequences.”
That is why the commitment in the Gracious Speech to
“increase life chances for the most disadvantaged” by tackling
“poverty and the causes of deprivation, including family instability” is so welcome.
Addressing this challenge is urgent. The needs are widespread, and not just for those at risk of entering the care or criminal justice systems. Years of evidence-based research by the Centre for Social Justice has shown it is demonstrably the case that growing up in a family where relationships are dysfunctional, chaotic or insecure is not only a key driver of poverty in itself, but a driver of other causes of poverty such as addiction, mental health problems, behavioural problems, poor educational attainment, worklessness, depression and debt. Teachers and mental health charity workers in my constituency tell me that disturbingly increasing levels of poor mental health among children, including very young children, frequently result from insecure family relationships.