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Tackling Child Poverty and Social Mobility Reports

Written by Dave Cookson, 28th April 2011

This month the Government published two different reports, one called A New Approach to Child Poverty: Tackling the Causes of Disadvantage and Transforming Families' Lives and the other Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers: A Strategy for Social Mobility. Both were influenced by Birkenhead MP Frank Field's report The Foundation Years: preventing poor children becoming poor adults.

Within these reports the Government provided some interesting ideas regarding the ongoing issues of child poverty and social mobility. In the report on child poverty it is said that a radical transformation of public services and the welfare system is required,

This includes addressing some of the most entrenched issues: educational failure; worklessness; family breakdown; severe debt; and health issues, such as alcohol and drug addiction.

Offering support to parents' learning and skills is beneficial to children, illustrating that in order to help children, policies need to be put in place to help parents as well. This could come from publically funded Family Literacy and Numeracy programmes and Wider Family Learning programmes. Skills could be gained from GIR as our recent evaluation in Wigan proved, helping to deal with some of the issues Government wishes to tackle.

Both reports point to the importance of a positive home learning environment in combating the effects of child poverty:

Research has shown that the home learning environment is the most important factor in children’s cognitive and social and behavioural outcomes. In the early years, a strong home environment is characterised by activities such as talking and reading to children, singing songs and learning through simple activities and play. As children mature, discussions in the family are important for helping children to learn to make good choices, as is reinforcing the importance of doing homework.

It is satisfying for everyone at The Reader Organisation to see official Government reports agreeing that reading aloud can have profound effects, in this case with children. The Reader has plenty of ongoing experience of reading with children, working in schools and with looked after children to great effect.

It will be interesting to see how the Government encourages a strong home learning environment, hopefully leading to more people reading aloud for their children and in turn improving social mobility and reducing child poverty.

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