By Frank Field MP
The last Government's 'life chances' approach to tackling poverty had the potential of being the most important innovation that any government has introduced, since a century ago when it decided to collect the first data on unemployment. That collection of data led to the beginnings of a contributions-based welfare state.
No government anywhere, as far as I know, has attempted to collect data on life chances. The early stages will therefore be easily mocked, particularly by those who do not wish to see any new poverty agenda take over from a now worn-out poverty strategy. Of course the poor need more money, but all of us surely recognise that money alone is not going to make the changes in life chances to poorer children which it was assumed would follow from higher incomes.
We need to encourage the new Government to be open-minded on what it includes in any new poverty fighting strategy. We need to measure how many children start life successfully, enter toddlerhood successfully and, above all, start school successfully. A new approach must be accompanied by a reintroduction of the importance of good parenting, and how it can trump social class in respect of children's life chances.
Theresa May will surely want to stamp her own identity on any new approach to fighting poverty. She should look carefully at the last Government's approach to tackling poverty at its root causes through a life chances approach.