Local authorities urged to tackle child poverty in the early years

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England's children’s commissioner is calling for a focus on early intervention and investment to cut poverty for pre-school children.

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Anne Longfield, the children's commissioner for England

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, is calling on local authorities and the Government to work together to tackle child poverty by renewing their focus on early intervention and prioritising investment in the early years.

A new report by the children’s commissioner's office, published today, looks at how local services can prevent poverty.

The report, Changing the odds, found that reducing the number of children who spend the first years of their lives in poverty would have a profound impact on their life chances and outcomes.

Ms Longfield wants local authorities to seize the opportunity provided by the Government to devolve responsibilities, and put forward ‘innovative’ proposals to take on enhanced powers that reduce poverty for pre-school children

She is also asking the Government to commit to making significant investment in the areas with the highest numbers of children living in poverty over the lifetime of this Parliament.

The report draws upon research conducted by the University of East London (UEL) into local policies and interventions for low-income families across ten local authorities over the last year.

Researchers spoke to children, their families and professionals who support them, about local approaches to reducing child poverty.

The report concludes that while many areas are developing effective approaches to reducing poverty, local authorities are struggling against a backdrop of increasing need, hardship and dwindling budgets.

Speaking at the launch of Changing the odds, Ms Longfield said, ‘Living in poverty has a lasting impact on children’s lives, adversely affecting their development, educational attainment, health and well-being. At the age of three, a child who has been raised in poverty is likely to have poorer health and a lower level of educational attainment than one who has not.

‘Investment in the early years is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty and improving outcomes in later life. With dwindling budgets and increasing need, local authorities must focus on developing innovative new ways to address child poverty so that they do not store up problems for the future.

‘The Government is actively devolving responsibilities to local authorities and they should seize this opportunity to put forward robust local plans to take more control over addressing child poverty. These must be coupled with increased Government investment in the areas of most need. We need to significantly improve the odds for the youngest, poorest children so that they have a more equal start in life and chance of fulfilling their potential.’

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