PSE: UK response to the Field Review consultation

In Tackling Child Poverty and Improving Life Chances: Consulting on a New Approach, the PSE: UK research team has responded to the consultation on the Field Review’s report, The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults. The response welcomes the emphasis on early years in the Field report but is critical of key aspects of the report, arguing that key elements of the proposed strategy are ‘narrow, partial and highly likely to be ineffective’.

The PSE: UK team response

  • While welcoming the increased emphasis on early years in the report, the PSE team was critical of the philosophical position displayed by Frank Field in his Introduction and ‘its attempt to revive the discredited Cultural Deficit theories of the 1960s’. PSE: UK argues that the Report ‘recommended measures largely ignoring the structural reasons for the persistence of poverty’ and is critical of some of the proposals for new poverty measures for children under five, including indicators of parenting quality, home learning environment and parental mental health.
  • PSE: UK supports the proposal for a new measure of service poverty/deprivation but argues that the list of proposed services should be extended to include, for example, ‘dentists and opticians’, ‘youth work’ and ‘public transport’.
  • PSE: UK is critical of the proposed new working definition of socio-economic disadvantage, believing it is too narrow and fails to recognise the structural causes of socio-economic disadvantage.
  • PSE: UK also queries the four main elements of the proposed child poverty strategy as ‘narrow, partial and highly likely to be ineffective’, and argues for a much broader strategy for the eradication of child poverty with a greater emphasis on ‘inadequate income and material living conditions of families with children which are unable to take up paid employment’.
  • The response is especially concerned about two statements in the report – on the question of poverty being transmitted between generations and that ‘the evidence indicates that simply increasing household income, though reducing income poverty, will not make a big difference to children’s life chances’. PSE: UK argues instead that there is little supporting evidence that poverty is ‘transmitted’ between generations and that the most effective way of tackling the negative social outcomes associated with poverty is ‘to increase the incomes of poor families’.
  • PSE: UK also argues that important additional measures to combat poverty and improve life chances would be to reduce the tax burden on poor families and prevent utility companies charging low income families more for gas and electricity than the better off.

The Review by Frank Field into Poverty and Life Chances was commissioned in June 2010 by the Prime Minister and it will be for the government to decide on its response to the recommendations and the subsequent consultation. This is likely to come through the Cabinet’s Social Justice Committee.