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A RENEWED DRIVE AGAINST SOCIAL EXCLUSION

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'Reaching Out' the Action Plan on Social Exclusion was launched today by social exclusion minister, Hilary Armstron...
'Reaching Out' the Action Plan on Social Exclusion was launched today by social exclusion minister, Hilary Armstrong,

Ms Armstrong was joined by children's minister Beverley Hughes, health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, local government secretary Ruth Kelly and Pat McFadden, parliamentary secretary for social exclusion.

The Action Plan - available here - sets out the government's renewed drive to improve the life chances and opportunities of the most disadvantaged and hard-to-reach in society. It's about reducing and preventing the harm and cost caused by social exclusion to individuals, their families and our communities.

Since 1997 the government has made great progress. Over two million more people are in work, 800,000 children and 1 million pensioners have been lifted out of poverty. Long-term youth unemployment has been eradicated. As a consequence of the policies the government has put in place, many more people in Britain enjoy greater opportunities now than was the case a decade ago.

Yet despite this huge progress about 2.5 per cent of every generation seem to be stuck in a lifetime of disadvantage. Their problems are multiple, entrenched and often passed down generations. But this government believes it is possible to extend opportunity to the least advantaged so that they enjoy more of the choices, chances and opportunities that the rest of society takes for granted.

In order to achieve this a radical revision of methods for tackling social exclusion is needed. This Plan is guided by five principles: early intervention, systematically identifying what works, better co-ordination of the many separate agencies, personal rights and responsibilities and intolerance of poor performance. It proposes a range of systemic reforms aimed at fundamentally changing the way we deliver help and support to the socially excluded.

This Plan also concentrates on some key groups. We propose more support for very young children born into vulnerable circumstances because we know the crucial importance of the first months and years of a child's life in framing their opportunities.

The government proposes action to reduce teenage pregnancy because it knows that despite the good job many young mothers do, teenage motherhood often leads to poor life chances for mother and child alike. A Green Paper on Looked After Children aimed at increasing educational achievement and ensuring greater stability and continuity in care including through an expansion of budget holding lead professionals, will be published shortly.

The government also proposes a more personalised service for adults with multiple problems because it knows that tailored help is needed to address their needs, and that passing vulnerable people from service to service is good neither for them nor for the wider community.

'We have to accept that in some cases, with the hardest to reach families, with the most problems, the current universal one-size fits all approach is not enough. We need to intervene at the right time, personalise our services, be more persistent and co-ordinated, and fit them around the needs of individuals if we are ever going to tackle the hardest complexities of peoples' lives,' said Ms Armstrong.

'No-one should be written off - no-one is too hard to reach. I don't believe that there is anyone who doesn't want a better future for themselves and their children. This action plan will help and challenge individuals and the services that support them to unlock their aspiration and help lift themselves out of poverty and exclusion'.

The Action Plan will include:

--Health-led support from pre-birth to age 2, focused on the most at-risk, with 10 demonstration projects, up-skilling of key staff such as midwives and health visitors, and revised commissioning guidance nationally.

--Individual budget-holding for looked after children, to ensure every child in care has someone who understands their personal needs and has the leverage to secure the right support. Details to follow in the Green Paper in the autumn.

--Teenage pregnancy hotspots targeted with enhanced social and relationship education; an expanded media campaign; and better access to contraceptives.

--Multi-agency and family based approaches piloted for tackling behavioural and mental health problems in childhood.

--Personalised, coordinated and tailored interventions piloted for adults with chaotic lives and multiple needs.

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