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Reacting to the first keynote address* by new social exclusion minister, Hilary Armstrong, IPPR North director Sue ...
Reacting to the first keynote address* by new social exclusion minister, Hilary Armstrong, IPPR North director Sue Stirling said:

'We welcome this vitally important new cabinet rank post for leading cross-departmental work on tackling social exclusion. IPPR is pleased at the focus on strengthening existing commitments. We anticipate the most challenging issues will be to improve the life chances of looked after children and those with mental health problems, and to expand action for people who live in the very poorest areas and who are furthest remove from decent jobs. Increasing accountability and developing the right incentives across all departments will be the key, instead of looking for new interventions or eye catching initiatives.

'It is significant that Hilary Armstrong's first speech is in Sunderland because we need to find policy solutions that work at a local and regional level. On the ground, it is not just a matter of delivering Ministerial priorities but reconfiguring services to meet local need. We should be brave enough to support radical local solutions to entrenched problems. Otherwise the casualties will keep coming.'

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



- Of those who sat Key Stage tests in England in 2003-04, children who had been in care for at least 12 months at Key Stage 1 (age seven) achieved at 64 per cent of the national level for all children. At Key Stage 2 (age 11), children in care achieved at 54 per cent of the national level, and at Key Stage 3 (aged 14) children in care did 33 per cent as well as their peers. At Key Stage 4 (age 16) these discrepancies are even wider. Only nine per cent of children in care in England achieved five GCSEs at grades A* to C compared with 54 per cent of children nationally. In 2003-04, 56 per cent of children in care achieved one GCSE or GNVQ, compared with 96 per cent of children nationally. After compulsory education, 59 per cent of children in care were in full time education, compared with 73 per cent nationally in England in 2004. Twenty two per cent of children in care were unemployed at the end of year 11, compared with six per cent of all children. In 2005, 30 per cent of care leavers in England were not in education, employment or training, compared to 10 per cent nationally.

- Adults with mental health problems are one of the most disadvantaged groups in society. Although many want to work, fewer than a quarter actually do, the lowest employment rate for any of the main groups of disabled people. More than 900,000 adults in England claim sickness and disability benefits for mental health conditions, with particularly high claimant rates in the North. This group is now larger than the total number of unemployed people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in England. Stigma and discrimination against people with mental health problems is pervasive throughout society. Despite a number of significant campaigns there has been no change in attitudes. Adults with complex needs, such as substance misuse or homelessness, in addition to their mental health problems often struggle to get their needs met by statutory services. Mental health problems often figure in complex needs, whether it is severe mental illness (1 in 200 adults each year) or common problems (1 in 6 people at any one time and one third of GP time).

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