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'BREAK DOWN THE MYTHS AROUND SOCIAL EXCLUSION': HILARY ARMSTRONG

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Minister for social exclusion Hilary Armstrong delivered her first keynote speech* in her new role to the IPPR Nort...
Minister for social exclusion Hilary Armstrong delivered her first keynote speech* in her new role to the IPPR North on Saturday.

Ms Armstrong discussed the brief that the prime minister has given her, as set out in her appointment jfkldjfkldjfldkfjdklfjdsklfjdklfjdsklfjdsklfjdsklfdjsfkldjsfkldsjfdklsfjdsklfjdsklfjdsklfjdsklfjdsklfjdklfjdklsfjdklfjdsklfjdklsfjdsklfjdsklfjdsklfjdklsfjkldsletter. She also talked about her personal experience of working in communities around Sunderland as a social worker. She discussed her strong commitment to helping people believe and realise that opportunity is available to them as much as others. She outlined the dangers to the individual, and society as a whole, of leaving vulnerable people behind.

In response to the prime minister's appointment letter, Ms Armstrong said:

'I am extremely pleased to have been appointed Minister for the Cabinet Office and for Social Exclusion by the Prime Minister.

I am particularly grateful to the Prime Minister because this appointment reflects my lifelong interest in the wellbeing of the most vulnerable people in our society. I grew up in a family that valued the opportunities provided by education, and encouraged me to work with every opportunity I was provided. I was privileged to be able to achieve some of my aspirations, but others are not so lucky.

This government is proud of its record of lifting people of all ages out of poverty. Millions of people that had previously been written-off, have now been able to achieve their aspirations to get a job. They are now in work and building a brighter future for their children as a direct result of their hard work and aspiration.

But this is not true of everyone. We must also accept our failure to reach some groups of people that still need to find a way out of poverty and despair. These people are often the most isolated and vulnerable. We must learn why the programmes that have worked with so many other people's aspirations have not been successful here. We must learn to personalise the opportunities we are developing so that it can genuinely meet people's very specific aspirations We must be open to new innovative ways of encouraging greater take-up of existing programmes. This government will never write people off.

This weekend I will visit the Positive Future project in the Southwick district of Sunderland. It is in the North East that I began my professional career as a social worker, so it will be a great opportunity to return and see for myself both the improvements in the lives of many but also the challenges we face today. I'm really looking forward to seeing how young people are being offered the chance to develop the social and teamwork skills that will help them take advantage of life's chances in the coming years.

Innovative schemes like this will play a key informative role as I work across government, and with other stakeholders, to work with the most vulnerable and excluded people in our society. So it is with great enthusiasm that I accept this appointment and look forward to tackling the ambitious challenges spelled out by the Prime Minister in his letter of appointment.

I also welcome the role the Prime Minister has given me to drive forward our work with the Third Sector. Third Sector organisations make an enormous contribution to our society and economy, from creating wealth through enterprise and delivering public services to strengthening communities.

Over the last few years we have seen the impact which the great the range of Third Sector organisations already make. For example, social enterprises are contributing£8.4bn to GDP, through a diverse range of businesses from fair trade chocolate to childcare, community-owned wind farms to community buses. There are now nearly 190,000 charities, making improvements in fields as diverse as international poverty reduction to local support for parents. Over 20 million people regularly volunteer, and charitable giving is rising.

However, the potential of the Sector is even greater. I will therefore be establishing an Office of the Third Sector in the Cabinet Office which will be led by Ed Miliband as Minister for the Third Sector. The Office will ensure that, across Government, we work more effectively with a range of Third Sector organisations, including social enterprises, charities and community groups. The Office will draw together the good work of the Department for Trade and Industry and the Home Office and work closely with all parts of Government. We will seek to better support the enterprising spirit and innovation which characterises the Sector. Ed and I will work with colleagues across Government to ensure that we draw on the strengths of the Sector in helping improve public services, as part of our reform agenda. We will work with the Sector to ensure that its campaigning voice and role in helping people work together to solve problems flourishes in today's society. With Ruth Kelly, we share a common agenda to ensure that the Sector builds stronger communities.

Finally, I am pleased to be taking forward the drive across Government for Better Regulation. Making sure that we regulate in the right way is crucial to just about everything we do. It is about streamlining bureaucracy in order to drive up productivity, increase prosperity and modernise our public services. Better regulation frees up time, money and manpower and allows organisations to concentrate on their core business, be that creating wealth and jobs, delivering vital public services or strengthening communities. I'm proud to have been given the opportunity to develop and implement this agenda of regulatory reform, for the benefit of business, public servants and voluntary workers. This is one of the most radical reform agendas in the world, and rightly so, because what is good for the economy, public services andvoluntary workers is good for us all.'

* Ms Armstrong's speech to the IPPR is available here.

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