Life Chances Indicators 'could transform child poverty'

A ‘once in a generation’ opportunity for the Government to prevent disadvantaged children from becoming poor adults is not to be missed, Frank Field has said.

At a Westminster conference to mark Infant Mental Health Week, the Labour MP highlighted how proposed Life Chances Indicators could include the early years.

The Labour politician is backing use of the indictors, which he first recommended in his Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances, in 2010. The idea also appeared in last month’s Queen’s Speech.

The measures look at a range of skills at age five, including whether a child can use cutlery or go the toilet by themselves, and language use.

Importantly, they aim to capture variation in family support and features reading, praise and fun at home.

They would be used to develop early interventions and to improve the school readiness of disadvantaged children.

Speaking before the conference, organised by charity the Parent Infant Partnership (PIP) UK, Mr Field said, ‘The Government has crafted for itself a once in a generation opportunity to transform the whole political landscape on child poverty in this country.

‘All the evidence shows that life chances are determined before children even enter school and the task of improving their lives begins in the womb.

‘From the moment they pass through the school gate, a child’s prospects can be predicted with an astonishing degree of accuracy, making the Government’s push for Life Chances Indicators at this crucial stage of life all the more vital, not only in ensuring that investment is properly allocated, but also in ensuring that progress can be charted from one generation to the next.’

Mr Field established the Foundation Years Trust to begin implementing the 2010 report’s findings.

The trust commissioned specialists to draw up the indicators, based on an Early Skills and Support Index (BESSI) questionnaire.

The MP is currently co-chairing a joint inquiry into the Government’s forthcoming Life Chances Strategy, by the Education Select Committee and the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

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