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Bright Blue has launched a new report calling on the Government to make the receipt of Child Benefit conditional upon parents of three and four year old children (and two year old children for the most deprived parents) enrolling their children in quality pre-school education.

The new report, entitled Reducing poverty by promoting more diverse social networks for disadvantaged people from ethnic minority groups, is authored by Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue and a former adviser to the Conservative Party on family policy.

The report offers alternative policies to cash transfers to reduce poverty in the UK. It is based on new empirical evidence which shows that having stronger and more diverse (in terms of ethnicity and social class) relationships reduces the likelihood of an individual living in poverty.

Bright Blue’s report argues that Sure Start Children’s Centres, nurseries and primary schools are key universal institutions to improve integration of people from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. It suggests policies to lessen the barriers to participation in these public services among disadvantaged ethnic groups and improve social mixedness of adults and children in these institutions.

 Commenting on the report, author of the paper and Director of Bright Blue, Ryan Shorthouse, said:

“Reducing poverty is not just about people having more money, important as that is. There is now evidence which shows that having strong and diverse relationships is associated with a reduced likelihood of being in poverty.

“Universal public services such as Children’s Centres and nurseries are key institutions where people from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds can forge relationships with one another. But the poorest adults and children, including those from ethnic minority backgrounds, are often the least likely to participate in these institutions. This means they miss out not only on the important services being offered in these public services, but the chance to diversify their social networks, which can lead to increased knowledge – such as about job opportunities – or skills – such as better English. In actual fact, these local institutions are on the front line of building a more integrated Britain.

“There are significant and enduring educational and social benefits from children’s participation in high-quality preschool education, especially for those from the most deprived backgrounds. All parents should know that formal childcare, as delivered through the Early Years Free Entitlement, is primarily an educational rather than a childcare service. Even if parents are, admirably, caring for their young children at home, they should be expected to enrol their children in quality preschool education for the free hours they are entitled to  from the age of three, and from the age of two for the most deprived parents. Pre-school education is so important that all parents need to recognise that formal education starts way before their child is aged five and the receipt of their Child Benefit should be conditional on enrolling their children in quality preschool education through the Early Years Free Entitlement.

“The Prime Minister has said that one of his key aims of his final term in office is tackling poverty. To do this, he should develop a relational approach to fighting poverty. In particular, he should seek to strengthen and diversify the social networks of people in poverty.”

The report has four main policy recommendations:

  • The receipt of Child Benefit should be conditional upon all parents eligible for the Early Years Free Entitlement when their children are between the ages of three and four (from aged two for the most deprived parents) enrolling their children in quality pre-school education.
  • All Sure Start Children’s Centres should now deliver birth registration and English language classes.
  •  OFSTED inspections of Sure Start Children’s Centres, nurseries and primary schools should take into account whether the social composition of their governing bodies or advisory boards reflects that of local communities.
  • Individual Sure Start Children’s Centres should: collect standardised, socio-demographic data on participating families; and receive a financial reward for increasing participation by disadvantaged people from ethnic minority backgrounds, and a financial penalty for failing to do so.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For further media enquiries, please contact our Communications Manager of Bright Blue, Laura Round, on laura@brightblue.org.uk or 07543759844.