Labour and Conservatives. What’s their approach to children’s services?

Categories: Background

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The political differences between Labour and Conservatives also include the approach to children’s services.

Nowadays, England has a system that was shaped under the 13 years of New Labour, but the current Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition has started making some changes.

What are the main differences between Labour and Tories?

According to their general election manifestos, and also to the policies they apply when they are in office, we can spot some –let’s call them philosophical- differences:

  • The Labour Party focuses on universal children’s services and wants to put money in the pockets of families with children, particularly the most needy.
  • The Conservative Party prioritises early intervention and tries to reinforce the traditional family as a way to provide a better environment for children.
  • These are very general ideas about the two different approaches but the best way to see how they differ is having a look to their proposals.

    How are the policies different?

    Since 1997, children services were a priority for Labour governments, especially from the second term. The goal of reducing child poverty was included in all their manifestos and inspired many of their actions.

    As a way of summarise their 13 years of government we can highlight the following initiatives:

  • In 1998 they set up the Sure Start programme in order to create children’s centres in the most deprived areas.
  • They increased child benefit and child tax credit to put more money in the pockets of the households.
  • In 2003 they launched an initiative called ‘Every Child Matters’, that was a global proposal to integrate different services and set up an ambitious agenda based on five aims for every child: be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being.
  • They created a Child Trust Fund, a long term and tax-free savings account partially funded by the government.
  • They reduced significantly the number of children living in poverty.
  • They passed important bills like the Children Act 2004 and the Children Poverty Act 2010.
  • In the last three years of Tory and Liberal Democrat government there was not a big reform or restructuring of the system created by New Labour, but it was affected by the cuts agenda.

    The Child Trust Fund was removed for new-borns, many Sure Start centres were closed and the Child Tax Credit was scraped.

    The main proactive measures applied by the Coalition could be summarised in the following:

  • They increased the right to free early education and care for 3 and 4 year olds from 12.5 to 15 hours a week.
  • They reformed the Ofsted inspection system.
  • They changed the child maintenance system to encourage separated parents to work together
  • In the following days we will publish interviews with local Labour and Tory councillors, so stay tuned if you want to keep seeing the main differences between parties.

    Author: Duarte Romero Varela

    Datajournalist

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