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FRONT LINE FIRST-SOCIAL SERVICES

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Steps to eradicate child poverty ...
Steps to eradicate child poverty

Empowerment, joined-up thinking and delivery are three terms we hear regularly from politicians. How do they relate to the challenges facing social services in Britain today? More specifically, are they a reality in improving the lives of the millions of poor children and families in communities across

the UK?

The challenge in the future for service deliverers is to understand the government's ethos, to understand its position and to work within those boundaries to ensure the public get the best of what can be delivered. Of course, there should continue to be debate.

Investment in local projects based on national frameworks is the way forward. Social services departments are having to re-align their work around this and face further challenges ahead.

Social services must continue to push for families to have a decent income on a regular basis. Where Sure Start and the Children's Fund help, assist and empower, they must not be seen as an alternative to financial support. Too

many children still go without a warm coat or correctly fitting pair of shoes because of a lack on money. Income poverty is a reality.

Like many children's organisations, the Child Poverty Action Group was greatly encouraged to hear the prime minister only two years ago announce the Labour government's historic pledge to eradicate child poverty within 20 years. The recognition that three million children live below the poverty line in modern Britain was necessary and finally put paid to ideas that poverty simply did not exist or that it is not that bad.

But what has been done in those two years, and has it made a difference in the day-to-day lives of our communities? In many cases, the government has put its money where its mouth is, which has to be applauded. We hear lots about 'local delivery' and 'local services'. What difference is this making and do we need a new framework and structure for local delivery to be more effective?

It is hard to argue that the government has not been investing in local services. Establishing the Children & Young People's Unit to administer the Children's Fund on a local basis is encouraging. The successful pilots for Sure Start made a big difference and it is exciting that further programs are being rolled out so all regions can benefit.

Regional government remains very much in Tony Blair's plans, as do public/private partnerships and to think these will not or should not affect social services delivery would be naive.

Social services will and must continue to be fundamental in the eradicating of the scourge of child poverty on our society. They have an array of challenges ahead that, if taken on and taken forward, can begin to make child poverty a thing of the past.

Ashley Riley

Child Poverty Action Group

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