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Frank Field on Child Poverty

45 replies

Chil1234 · 11/06/2010 14:43

Reform of Child Benefits

Very interesting article. The reason I like Labour MP Frank Field is that he often provides a different perspective on an issue. The man charged with 'thinking the unthinkable' but then stomped on from a great height by the New Labour hierachy is putting forward some fresh thinking on how to tackle child poverty for the coalition government.

One suggestion is to tax Child Benefit and another is to withdraw it completely once the chid hits 13. Even more interesting is the suggestion that it's not purely 'money' that keeps children down but lack of life chances as well. Simple things like children being ready for school... able to use a toilet themselves, hold a crayon, manage a knife and fork. No matter how much money your family is given, if you can't hit these age-related markers you've got an uphill battle.

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longfingernails · 11/06/2010 14:45

Frank Field is brilliant but he had no chance against Gordon Brown's malice.

Chil1234 · 11/06/2010 15:06

It's reported that one of his Labour colleagues gave him a hug and said 'hope they treat you better than we did'.... what does that say about the former government's attitude to making life easier for the poor?

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legoStuckinmyHoover · 11/06/2010 18:44

Just read the article.

What screams out to me is, it actually says that Field wants to scrap the current measure of poverty??

[The cynic in me would say, thats right, change the boundries so it seems there are less children included in that category and we can say we have done a good job at reducing poverty, especially with Duncan Smith 'reforming' welfare spending]

So anyway, instead Field says replace it with a ''life chances'' index - and somehow 'measure' parenting by weather children can hold a crayon, get to school on time, and I guess a tick list with other indicators? So what does that mean for a wealthy family whose children cannot hit ''the benchmarks''? Will they be deemed in poverty and get extra benefit? I'm not too sure what the point is, how it can judged, weather they should be judges of childrens abilities and what that means for those children who are living below the poverty line but who are very bright and able. Will they not get help?

I have noticed that as my children grow older, they become more costly, not less so. Also, if anything your teenage years are pretty well more influential on the rest of your life than your younger years aren't they? So the stopping CHB at 13 strikes me as odd and would agree with what the IFS said.

Maybe I am just very confused and missing the point but it doesn't seem to make much sense. Maybe you can make it clearer to me?

DinahRod · 11/06/2010 18:59

Really like Frank Field. Don't agree with everything he says but I thought Labour made a big mistake in not taking up some of his ideas they charged him to find.

I also like the proposal of his, of front loading child benefit into the early years when it's most needed so mothers (or fathers) can afford not to work during the pre school years and return to work once children are in school. Children might be more expensive as teenagers but by then they are at school, don't require before and after school care and thus parents can work.

Chil1234 · 11/06/2010 19:23

"Field wants to scrap the current measure of poverty??"

The way I read it was that he thinks it's a mistake to get too wrapped up on the purely numerical defition of 'child poverty' i.e. 60% of median income. The rationale in the past seems to have been that if you can only guarantee a family a particular income (CTC, WFTC etc.) then the child's life chances instantly improve and the problem of 'child poverty' magically goes away. We all know that's not the case.

Financial support is still required but I could see the number of checks extended, for example, to see how children are developing and give parents (all income brackets) pointers. Currently we do a few simple checks in babyhood but that's it. If the child is falling behind developmentally and/or the parent needs extra help that doesn't mean 'more cash' but it might mean extra support of a different kind.

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melpomene · 11/06/2010 20:03

He also criticised breakfast clubs, asking why parents don't give children breakfast themselves. Which shows a total lack of understanding and is at odds with the policies to get parents of primary-school-aged children into work.

Chil1234 · 12/06/2010 09:04

It's the not child-care part of the breakfast club system that is at question, it's the principle of resolving the problem that children are arriving at school with no breakfast by getting 'someone else' to take responsibility.

Same applies to a lot of other parts of childhood if you think about it. Basic life skills that used to be passed on to children by parents are increasingly added to the national curriculum i.e. We bypass 'parenting' and we expect teachers and other agencies to pick up the slack.

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sarah293 · 12/06/2010 09:09

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Chil1234 · 12/06/2010 09:30

Riven, this isn't about children with special needs. They always have been and always will be treated on a case by case basis.

If a family is on such low income that they can't afford bus fares for children to get to school then their income will be supplemented in other ways.

And finally on the 'one size fits all'.... that's exactly what we have at the moment. CB is a universal benefit given to everyone regardless of whether they need it or not. That's why it costs the earth, why it's unfari and why it needs to be addressed.

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sarah293 · 12/06/2010 09:49

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Chil1234 · 12/06/2010 10:28

The subject on the table is the provision for children in general. How to take children out of the trap of poverty and low life-chances more effectively than is currently the case.

I don't know how far Field's ideas are along the track or even how practical/cost-effective they are but, if he's been looking at this subject since 1998, my intuition is that he has put some considerable thought into it. I also think that by looking at the changing needs of families with children over time - removing CB at age 13 as an example - that's a new angle that no-one else so far has put on the table.

Families with special needs children are constantly fighting for extra services and funding but I think that's a different discussion.

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Bucharest · 12/06/2010 10:48

I quite like Frank Field (as I do Harriet Harman) and they both, in some ways remind me a bit of Gordon, in that I see them as relatively untouched by the years of spin- and willing to be unpopular by the supremos of spin (Campbell, Mandelson, the Milis etc)

It was Princess Tony who loathed FF and shat on his original work on poverty/benefits etc, virtually re-writing his proposals at the last minute because he thought it wasn't in line with New Labour-ishness.

As far as "poverty" is concerned, no real progress is going to be made until we stop thinking that the word "poverty" always equates money (and lack thereof)

legoStuckinmyHoover · 12/06/2010 11:25

I have cut and pasted this from the article:

"Mr Field, who was sacked from his welfare post within a year after a row with Gordon Brown, also wants to scrap the current measure of child poverty, defined as 60 per cent of median earnings. He intends to recommend it is replaced with a ?life chances? index measuring parenting, school readiness ? such as being able to hold a crayon or sit still ? and progress through education."

Poverty is about lack of wealth and material wealth isn't it? It seems to be confused here with parenting that is different to his beliefs, not to mention some rather obvious links to Bowlby's maternal deprivation hypothesis, which others have argued against since.

Of course poverty directly links to life chances, so i am still confused. Of course people should be given extra financial support if they need it and services etc.

Either we do not know enough about his thoughts or/and the article is vague?

Chil1234 · 12/06/2010 11:52

I think the point is that 'lack of material wealth' is not the sole contributor in a child's life-chances. It's important to have a reasonable standard of living, of course, but hitting the financial benchmark alone does not guarantee an improvement in outcome for the children. By simply focusing on getting the family income up to a certain level, we're missing a trick

I'd give the example of people at my ex SIL's primary school. Most in the area would be classed as 'poor' on the 60% of median earnings test. She tells me that families from ethnic minority backgrounds, because they value education and hard work, have children that generally do much better than those from those from ethnic majority backgrounds where education is not prized. How you make those values common across different communities I don't know but I suspect this is part of the thinking

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legoStuckinmyHoover · 12/06/2010 12:04

But, i don't think you can make other people hold the same values as you have, no matter what you do.

Chil1234 · 12/06/2010 12:26

Government is capable of engineering social values much more than you might think. People take the path of least resistance and if there are financial or other incentives for behaving a particular way then they will follow that path. For example, it was never the intention to actively encourage more teens to have babies by offering financial support and housing - it was meant to be a safety-net policy - but that has been one of the consequences.

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legoStuckinmyHoover · 12/06/2010 12:28

Also, as you say, he is suggesting that CHB should be given in lump sums in the first two years of childs life rather than spread out over years in order to keep mum at home? Where is the evidence this will help reduce poverty? In the "olden days" more mums stayed at home and it didn't solve the problem of poverty long term or generations living in poverty.

I wonder if this point goes hand in hand with his ideas on National Service and indeed this whole thing, that he is maybe a bit old fashioned and is looking at social problems and looking back to the 1950's to try to cure them? I guess he is also, subliminaly [sp] pointing a finger and blamming working mothers for all ills in society [if that is his point?]? I don't know.

Yes I agree with you of course that we are missing a trick. I think it's through opportunity, wealth, employment, education, health, housing and loads, loads more - everything!! It's just such a massive thing to sort out and try to solve.

But, I can't see how stopping CHB for over 13's will help that's all or by mums staying at home for the first two years of their children's lives. It just does not add up [to me!].

tethersend · 12/06/2010 12:46

"a ?life chances? index measuring parenting, school readiness ? such as being able to hold a crayon or sit still ? and progress through education."

SN are relevant if this becomes the measure.

MintHumbug · 12/06/2010 17:24

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zapostrophe · 12/06/2010 18:41

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Chil1234 · 13/06/2010 13:50

CB is already lower for the second child than for the first. Contraception is provided free on the NHS. Wouldn't be unreasonable, therefore, to set limits or some kind of tapered assistance levels on how many children the state would support.

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Xenia · 11/09/2010 09:04

Now he wants to get rid of school summer holidays, encourage women to stay at home etc etc (today's Times).

A white male who has never had a child should not be dictating to women whether we work or not.

"There are some mums who know they are not good mums and they want to work".

Well actually Mr Field in my view working mothers are the better mothers. They tend to earn more, be better educated be better at childcare and psychology and are the better mothers.

He seems sexist to the core. he seems to be assuming women look after children and children have one parent and father do nothing. We need politicians circa 2010 not 1880. Where is his rooting out of sexism? Where are his attempts to ensure sexual neutrality in relation to child care? It's very very sexist,

BelleDameSansMerci · 11/09/2010 09:09

Well said Xenia.

TheCoalitionNeedsYou · 11/09/2010 09:13

What has his race got to do with it xenia?

BelleDameSansMerci · 11/09/2010 09:18

Wouldn't dream of answering for Xenia (eek!) but there are some fairly well known stats about how being a white, middle class man gives you considerable advantage in the UK. I suspect the point being made is that he has no actual experience of being a parent and belongs to a fairly privileged group in society. I don't actually know enough about him to know if this is the case.

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