Archive for January, 2011

Time to refocus on child poverty

Hard times do not mean we cannot afford to tackle child poverty. Outgoing Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey argues that we cannot afford not to.

When I joined Barnardo’s some people were puzzled by my switch from director general of the prison service. But the logic was clear to me: the main link between my old world and Barnardo’s is disadvantage and poverty and child poverty in particular.

I believe the UK is a fine place for most of our children, but for a large and troubling minority that affluence is something they only see on TV. We have a battle on our hands with child poverty and I worry that its importance has tumbled down the political priority list for both the coalition and the opposition.

One reason, I believe, is due to a sudden and inexplicable emergence of a consensus that income poverty doesn’t really matter. It is certainly the case that poverty is about more than just income and it is right to be looking at early intervention and to refocus Sure Start on the neediest families. (more…)

Supporting parents

Children’s Commissioner and FRSA Maggie Atkinson looks at how we support parents in meeting the individual and social need for them to support and nurture their children?

The question of how we – and in particular the state – supports parents in ‘doing their job’ has always been a contentious one, hitting as it does questions of private and public responsibilities. This question lies at the heart of a new report, The Home Front, which has been funded by our office and authored by a team at Demos, and launched by the Deputy Prime Minister this week.

My office’s decision to fund this work was firmly rooted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which has much to say about the family. The Convention, signed by the UK in 1991, is at the core of my remit as Children’s Commissioner and underpins all the work of my office.

In working to protect and promote children’s rights as enshrined in the UNCRC, we have been considering the importance of family life and parenting as set out, for example, in Article 5, which describes families’ rights and responsibilities in guiding their children, or Article 12, which states that children have the right to have their voices heard and views respected: even, or especially, within the family context. Importantly the Convention also talks about parental responsibilities, and their right to be supported by Government (Article 18), and the need for State parties to make decisions that are in the best interest of children (Article 3). (more…)

Regional Enterprise Banks could boost economy

The Prime Minister has repeatedly called for the banks to start lending to business again. Robert Spencer FRSA, argues for a new approach and new banks to help this happen.

In January, the Prime Minister said “I have just come from a meeting with small businessmen and when I asked who had difficulties with their bank many put up their hands”. (more…)

Towards Tomorrow’s Investor

David Pitt Watson FRSA reports on an RSA project aiming to change people’s pension options and asks for Fellows’ help in doing so

The population of the UK is getting older: if we do not start saving more, many people will face insecurity and poverty in their later years. While these facts are well rehearsed, many of us do not save for old age and mistrust the pensions market, a problem exacerbated by the financial crisis and many seeing their savings diminish.

It was to respond to these issues that the RSA developed the Tomorrow’s Investor project two years ago: its focus was to look at what kind of investors we need to become if we are to secure a more stable and independent future. Our latest research suggests that huge benefit could be gained if we were to create a better framework for the provision of pensions in this country. As the latest report states:  “If a typical British and a typical Dutch person save the same amount of money for their pension, the Dutch person will receive up to 50 per cent more income in retirement than the Briton”.


Practical Arts in Education and Society

Jeremy Broun FRSA argues the hidden value of practical art education in our schools.

Mastery of technique is common across the arts. Whether you are a dancer, musician, or furniture maker, technique defines much of what you do. Technique has a magic; it has to be worked at and is admired and is something lasting to hand on. Particularly rooted in technique are the practical arts, traditionally called “craft” and the poor relation to art.

If you design a chair that breaks or is uncomfortable and lacks any kind of aesthetic quality, it fails. The joy of using hands and mind creatively and purposefully and in working within these grounded and honest parameters can lead to a sense of well-being and foster the kind of innovation that the economy could ultimately benefit from.

I am not arguing a case for training up loads of carpenters and glass blowers or suggesting there is any one fix to the hugely complex problems facing us. But we do have an obligation to help young people develop their identity and potential and prepare them for the world. This is a messy task because children’s core values are already entrenched before they walk through the school gates. (more…)