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Tackling the root causes of poverty

The Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, has made it clear that social reform will be at the heart of her programme for government. In her first speech as Prime Minister she committed to fight against the "burning injustice that, if you’re born poor, you will die on average 9 years earlier than others".

She has also put in place infrastructure to drive social reform, by setting up and chairing a social reform ministerial committee.

To accompany her recent return from holiday, we have focused this week's column on a few key policies that would help her Government make significant strides towards tackling poverty and supporting the most vulnerable.

Preparing young people for the world of work

There were 843,000 young people in the UK who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) between April and June 2016. While this is a welcome decrease on previous years, there is still much to do to ensure young people recieve an education which fully prepares them for the world of work, and prevents them from being unemployed from an early age. 

Research has shown it is possible to identify which children are more likely to become NEET upon leaving school, yet too little is done to intervene early enough.

We recommend the use of highly-trained coaches to give these children personalised and consistent coaching and mentoring, to overcome the issues which increase their likelihood of becoming unemployed. This can include support with GCSE choices, careers advice, contacts with local services and businesses, and help with personal issues which may be affecting their studies.

We welcome that the Department for Work and Pensions has piloted placing Jobcentre advisors in schools to support this approach. We would encourage the Government to build on this good work by ensuring that this support is rolled out across the country, using the best of the public and voluntary sector to transform the life chances of these children.

CSJ Report: The Journey to Work: Welfare reform for the next Parliament
CSJ Report: Closing the Divide: Tackling educational inequality in England

Abstinence-based rehabilitation would support people with addictions to fully recover

150,000 people in England are prescribed opiate substitutes for a crack and/or cocaine addiction. A third of these have been parked on their prescriptions, unable to fully recover, for more than four years.

Funding for residential rehabilitation, which supports people with addictions to fully recover and become abstinent, has decreased over the past few years. This is despite the best centres proving their worth by successfully supporting over two-thirds of residents to tackle their addictions.

The CSJ believes that everyone who needs support to overcome their addiction should receive it. Everyone deserves a second chance. This could become a reality through introducing a small charge of 1p for every unit of alcohol sold in the UK, excluding sales in bars and restaurants. This funding should be allocated on a payment by results basis, to ensure we pay only for what works at helping people to fully recover and to maintain their recovery.

It is also crucial to address the growing drug addiction epidemic in our prisons. This will help change not only the lives of prisoners, but also significantly reduce crime and protect communities.

We recommend a three-pronged attack: promoting full recovery, re-establishing Drugs Recovery Wings and improving the linkages between prison and community treatment.

CSJ Report: Ambitious for Recovery: Tackling drug and alcohol addiction in the UK
CSJ Report: No Quick Fix: Exposing the depth of Britain's drugs and alcohol problem
CSJ Report: Drugs in Prisons

Help to save schemes will tackle the vicious cycle of problem debt

Fewer than one in five households save regularly. This is a particular problem for the UK's poorest households, for whom an unexpected bill can easily lead to a spiral in to unmanageable debt.

Problem debt can lead to mental health issues, family breakdown, addiction, worklessness and crime as people struggle with the stress of managing tight finances, dealing with creditors and the stigma associated with it.

Earlier this year the Government announced that it would create a ‘help to save’ scheme to support saving. This is a welcome step forward and we encourage the Government to ensure this programme is rolled out, as we set out in our paper Help to Save.

There is also significant opportunity for Government to build on this work by creating a savings platform through the auto-enrolment infrastructure; lowering the minimum purchase amount for premium bonds and improving access to insurance products. These reforms would transform the lives of millions of households by helping them avoid problem debt and supporting them to save.

CSJ Report: Help to Save
CSJ Report: Future Finance: A new approach to financial capability