“We have to keep a sense of the important things that save money but are also just the right thing to do to support families,” said Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. This means keeping universal child benefit and keeping Sure Start. Some welfare should be specifically targetted she said, but not child benefit which importantly legitmises everyone contributing to all children.
We may not see the benefit of current early years' investments, such as Sure Start, for a decade but it will come and it will save other services money as well, she went on.
Cuts are inevitable given the £177 billion deficit but the government remains committed to eliminating child poverty. She insisted this should be done through proper investment in public services which in future would provide more joined up work with schools.
Helping those in low paid work must be Labour's “new crusade" Cooper said- the focus must not simple be getting people into emplyment. Once there, up-skilling and continuing training are important. Tax credits have made a massive difference to many families already and will continue to help lift more out of poverty.
For Tim Montgomerie, Conservative Home, the solution to supporting families was more about funding the voluntary sector than public services. “Every problem is being solved by some organisation somewhere,” he said, “but a lot of the voluntary sector has been repeatedly recycled and is stale.”
He wants to see a restructured and renewed voluntary sector, one that is venture-capital oriented and less rick averse. A decline of church groups has meant less community based support and so there is no one to help past 5pm when public service workers go home.