Labour can offer disadvantaged children a surer start in life

The Guardian - 27 Sep 2018

While Labour’s commitment of vast new sums towards preschool interventions is welcome, much more thought needs to be given to how they can be used most effectively to equalise children’s life chances (Free nurseries are a good place to start patching up our fragmented system, 26 September).

Much of the inequality that now exists between the life chances of children from relatively wealthy families and others from poorer backgrounds is accounted for by what happens at home – mainly in respect of the style of parenting and the home learning environment.

Intensive home visiting programmes that seek to improve maternal mental health, strengthen the bonds between parent and child, and create a home environment that enables babies and infants to develop, are being piloted, but only on a relatively small scale. Such interventions hold the key to equalising children’s life chances during those crucial first years of life which all but determine whether or not they will grow up to become poor adults.

That is despite the strong evidence found by Professor Michael Marmot, for example, that “early intervention through intensive home visiting programmes during and after pregnancy can be effective in improving the health, wellbeing and self-sufficiency of low-income, young first-time parents and their children”.

Herein lies the route for Labour to revolutionise the welfare state in pursuit of justice for children born into disadvantaged households.

Frank Field MP
Independent, Birkenhead