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Local authorities urged to put poverty prevention for early years at the heart of devolution plans

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner is urging local authorities and the Government to work together to tackle child poverty by renewing their focus on early intervention and prioritising investment in the early years, following publication of ‘Changing the odds,’ a report of research into local services that prevent poverty.

The Children’s Commissioner is calling on local authorities to seize opportunities provided by the Government to devolve power to them in order to put forward innovative proposals to take on enhanced powers which reduce poverty for pre-school children. She is also asking the Government to commit to making significant investment in the areas with the highest numbers of children living in poverty over the lifetime of the Parliament.

‘Changing the odds’ draws on research conducted in ten areas of the country over the last year. The researchers spoke to children, their families and professionals who support them about local approaches to reducing child poverty across ten local authority areas. It concludes that reducing the number the number of children who spend the first years of their lives in poverty would have a profound impact on their life chances and outcomes. Although many areas are developing effective approaches to reducing poverty, they are struggling against a backdrop of increasing need and hardship and dwindling budgets.

Speaking at the launch of ‘Changing the odds’, Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England said: “Living in poverty has a lasting impact on children’s lives, adversely affecting their development, educational attainment, health and wellbeing. At the age of three, a child who has been raised in poverty is likely to have poorer health and a lower level of educational attainment than one who has not.

“Investment in the early years is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty and improving outcomes in later life. With dwindling budgets and increasing need, local authorities must focus on developing innovative new ways to address child poverty so that they do not store up problems for the future. The Government is actively devolving responsibilities to local authorities and they should seize this opportunity to put forward robust local plans to take more control over addressing child poverty.  These must be coupled with increased Government investment in the areas of most need. We need to significantly improve the odds for the youngest poorest children so that they have a more equal start in life and chance of fulfilling their potential.”

Merle Davis, Director, Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development said: “Blackpool Better Start are delighted that the Children’s Commissioner is addressing the need to intervene at the earliest stage in a child’s life. We know, at the Centre for Early Child Development, how toxic stress in the early years can derail healthy development and the negative impact that can have on a child’s future health and wellbeing. That is why the NSPCC with their local authority, health, community and police partners in the town are refocussing their resources to support parents and families at this crucial stage in a child’s life.”

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