Coffee House

Frank Field’s report highlights the coalitions within the coalition

3 December 2010

3:12 PM

3 December 2010

3:12 PM

Frank Field’s review of child poverty
covers a daunting expanse of ground. From breast-feeding to the little society ("the younger sister of the Big Society"), it’s stuffed with more ideas than reviews that are
twice the size – and will take some time to digest properly. But, in a way, that’s precisely the point. Field’s central argument is that New Labour took an overly simplistic view of poverty.
For Brown & Co. it was all about funnelling cash handouts to poor families, often to lift them from just under an arbitrary poverty line to just above it. For Field, it is more about improving
opportunities across the board, with a particular focus on children aged 0 to 5. As the report puts it, "we have found overwhelming evidence that children’s life chances are most heavily
predicated on their development in the first five years of life." It is, on the whole, persuasive stuff.  

It is also one of the most striking examples yet of the coalitions that are forming within the coalition. When Nick Clegg announced the government’s "fairness
premium," he placed a similar emphasis on children under five, referring to "these critical foundation years". And, as Tim Montgomerie writes over at ConservativeHome, this approach is
also "the strong preference of Iain Duncan Smith and the Centre for Social Justice." It remains to be seen how much of Field’s agenda will be transplanted into the statute books, but
there is certainly a strong core of support for it.

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Show comments
  • maddy1

    Stay in bed all day Frank, it is much too late, baby! Maybe take a leaf out of the left wing book and get the unemployed up at six am. sweeping the streets like in the East!

  • Simon Stephenson

    HFC : 6.18pm

    “We could call the suggested hostels Community Workhouses. The inmates could be put to work to earn their education and keep.”

    “Put to work” doing what, pray? Pointless activity that has as an outcome no more than that it has taken place? Or minimally-skilled work of low value that was previously being done by someone else?

    What are you trying to achieve here? The creation of value commensurate with the cost to the rest of us of keeping the poor alive? Or just the irrational feelgood factor that these unfortunate people are being reminded continuously that “you don’t get something for nothing”?

  • 2trueblue

    I have a lot of time for Frank Field but isen’t this the same man who failed to see the implications when Liebore removed the 10% rate? Liebore have made our tax system so complicated that even their own staff fail miserably to understand it. Whatever we do we have to keep it simple and not just look at financial poverty. Our media are vacuous and our childrens aspirations are to be famous, but with little idea of how to run their lives or acquire any real skills that might bring the event about.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Ah, Michael Clarke, many a bloody fool is a M.A. (Cantab). As your post rather goes to show. Were you brought up by an illiterate prostitute and a career burglar? Now THAT would be something.

  • Liberty


    I presume your reference to a ‘workhouse’ is sarcastic. You must know that teenagers are almost always too young to be mothers and often very needy. It is far better to give them the option of staying home or getting support in a hostel. This is the norm in the rest of Europe – not that any other country has such a huge teenage mother problem as us; mostly because if they have a baby they can leave home, get enough money to keep themselves, a ‘nice’ flat, get to play with their baby all day and when they get bored visit their friends in the park or in coffee shops. If they get short of money have another baby. This is very attractive to lots and lots of girls.

  • Michael Clarke

    I am a bit puzzled by this. I had no education whatever until I was five and a half and I still ended up M.A.(Cantab.) Fluke I suppose.

  • Noa Zrk

    girl mothers? Is there any other kind?

  • Noa

    The solution to poverty is not taking my money from me and my children to give it to those who don’t, won’t or can’t look afer their own.
    It’s to ensure they behave responsibly by only reproducing when they can look after themselves.

  • Cynic

    No mention of stats that show that youngsters from broken homes do worse than those with two parents, I suppose. If they really were serious about lifting families out of poverty, they’d stop giving financial and other incentives to single teenage mothers.

  • HFC

    Liberty wrote: “Limiting child benefit to the last two children with suitable notice plus a chain of hostels for girl mothers would do more to reduce poverty than any other measure.”

    I think benefit in respect of the two FIRSTborn children would be preferable.

    We could call the suggested hostels Community Workhouses. The inmates could be put to work to earn their education and keep.

  • Liberty

    Limiting child benefit to the last two children with suitable notice plus a chain of hostels for girl mothers would do more to reduce poverty than any other measure.

  • Right On

    Good old Breastfeeding – mentioned in the same breath as parent’s mental health in what’s determine’s a childrens chance in later life.

    World’s gone mad…..

  • kinglear

    As the Jesuits used to say, “Give me a child until it is seven….”

  • laverda

    As a conservative supporter I welcome Mr Fields report. From what I heard him say on the DP today, it is not all spend as you say. He openly says that some years child tax benefit should be either reduced or not increased and the ‘spare’ money put into helping very young kids (under 3 years old). I think he has a lot of good ideas and should do more work for the coalition. His only problem is Labour, perhaps he should go Independent.

  • Ian Walker

    All the years that Labour were in power they had the man (Field) and the mandate to do this. They completely and utterly failed.

    Make sure you remind them of that, next time they claim to be the party of the poor.

  • Nick

    Frank Field is incompetent. Here is an MP who thinks the government debt is 175 billion. That’s just the government overspend.

    The real debt is 6,900 billion.

    The bank bail out in contrast, is 20 billion.

    It’s idiots like Frank Field who are the direct cause of this mess.

    It is spend spend spend, and no thought of the consequence or any value.

    The end result is that now all that Labour ‘investment in people’ is that those people have to pay the cash back with interest, and that’s the poor.