CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
SPEECH BY THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER AT SURE START
CONFERENCE ON 7 JULY 1999
I am pleased to have the opportunity to address this conference today,
to talk to the people who are on the ground making a difference, to
welcome you to this conference of Trailblazers which will I hope give
you the chance to learn from each others' experiences and ensure that
Sure Start is a success.
Child poverty is a scar on the soul of Britain. That is why Tony
Blair has said we must aim to abolish child poverty over 20 years.
And that is what we are determined to do to give every child the best
start in life.
When we came into government one in three children were living in
low income families with a higher number of children growing up in
workless households than any other European country.
It is essential that we address the causes of poverty and provide
support where and when it is most needed. For when some are poor our
whole society is impoverished.
Today's 5 year olds who will finish school in 2010 and graduate from
college by 2015 will be our teachers, our doctors and our scientists,
our employers and our workforce.
So we must give them the opportunity to achieve their ambitions and
make their contribution.
By investing in our children we are investing in our future.
Instead of, as in the past, investing in some of the potential of
some of our children, it is time to develop all the potential of all
of our children.
We know that children who grow up in poor families are less likely
to reach their full potential, less likely to stay on at school, or
even attend school, more likely to fall into the dead end of unemployment
and poverty as an adult, more likely to become unmarried teenage mothers,
more likely to be in the worst jobs or no jobs at all, more likely
to be trapped in a no win situation - poor when young, unemployed
So today I want to set out our four point plan - as part of
our 20 year strategy to abolish child poverty.
A four point plan committed to giving every child the best possible
start in life, a plan that involves cash and care, new finance and
a better deal for families.
First, we must tackle child poverty at its source - the absence of
work, in work poverty and providing increased financial support for
families to tackle child poverty, so that by our actions we lift a
million and more children out of poverty.
Second, what I want to concentrate on today, because improving public
services - health visitors, nurseries, playgroups, childcare, learning
support - in the poorest communities is vital to tackling child poverty,
our Sure Start programme will invest in young children in areas of
Third, we must mobilise not just government, local and national,
but voluntary help and community action - and in the programmes we
are introducing - not only in Sure Start but in the New Deal for Communities
and our expansion of childcare provision - we must mobilise the forces
of concern and compassion in new partnerships to tackle child poverty.
Fourth, as David Blunkett has said, we must make sure that all our
schools are as good as our best. In the old economy it was possible
to survive with the old inequalities - an education system that advanced
only the ambitions of the few.
First, cash help to lift children out of poverty.
In the last 20 years, child poverty rose sharply from 10 per
cent to a shameful 35 per cent and the number of children in
poor families has risen from just over one million to four million.
This Government has taken immediate and direct action to tackle these
Universal child benefit is the country's contribution to the investment
in children as our future and it is right that we continue to invest
in this way.
When we came to power we inherited child benefit of £11.05.
From April next year, child benefit has been raised to £15 for
the eldest child, a 36 per cent rise, the largest ever increase
in child benefit.
But we are doing more. A new children's tax credit is being introduced
from 2001 giving an extra £8 a week to most families.
So, the same family receiving increased child benefit and the new
children's tax credit will get £23 a week - double
the level of child support we inherited.
And for the poorest families with young children, income support
for under-11s will be over £8 a week higher next April than
it was when we came to government.
By concentrating our modern family policy on children, we are giving
lower and middle income families help when they need it most -
when they are bringing up their children.
Families in work benefit from additional measures -the minimum wage;
the cut in national insurance, boosting the incomes of many low paid
and part-time workers, in particular improving the take-home pay of
over eight million women; the 10p starting rate of income tax
for the low paid; the lowest tax burden on families on average earnings
since 1972; and the childcare tax credit covering up to 70 per
cent of childcare costs for families in work.
And the extension of maternity pay to the low-paid allows the majority
of working women to take time off work when they need it most.
But we can do more.
At the heart of our policies is the Working Families Tax Credit.
A family with a full-time worker will be guaranteed a minimum family
income of £200 a week, £80 a week more than they would
receive on income support, and they will not have to pay income tax
before earnings of £235.
In total, 1.5 million families will benefit, almost twice as
many as under the old system. Some families will gain up to £48
a week from WFTC and other measures, and around 800,000 children will
be lifted out of poverty.
We are committed to providing a better deal for families and doing
it in the fairest way.
Not only using the benefit system to help families with children,
but using the tax system, helping families into work and ensuring
that work pays.
We are leading the way in creating a family-friendly tax system.
But we can go further.
We propose for the future an integrated system of child support,
essential for working families.
Our measures are working, relieving the poorest families from the
burden of poverty.
But there is more to be done.
And this is where Sure Start comes in.
The Sure Start programme is innovative, administered at central government
level by a single budget, drawing different departments together.
Sure Start is designed to make effective services available, accessible
Sure Start is pioneering a co-ordinated approach to services for
families with children aged under four, tackling the causes of
poverty - lack of educational opportunity, lack of parental support,
lack of health advice - by adopting an integrated approach to childcare,
early education and play, health services and family support.
We started by introducing a new Sure Start maternity grant which
doubles the existing maternity payment from £100 to £200,
benefiting 200,000 families a year.
In addition Sure Start has been allocated £540 million
for the next three years to ensure that every child is ready to learn
when they begin school.
We are proposing to spend on average £4,500 more per child over
We are tackling the disadvantages of poverty, targeting resources
where they are most needed.
21 programmes were announced in April. Today a further 30 are announced.
By 2001 we will have established 250 local programmes.
We will learn from and build on the initial projects.
Sure Start will help:
- by strengthening community support for children.
- by providing one-to-one help, help through personal contact.
- by recognising that solutions do not come top down from government,
but bottom up from the community itself: co-ordinating locally the
best education and health and child care services.
- by bringing government and voluntary action together.
I see the notion of community empowerment going much further.
We must mobilise the community not just spend money. So we must rally
the forces in our community - voluntary groups, community organisations
and charities - to achieve the best for all our children.
Our proposals will help build strong communities and strong families.
We will help families who try hard to improve themselves, are good
citizens and responsible parents, but who without a platform of opportunity
from which to succeed are today denied the chance to realise the potential
they are born with.
All of us want to tackle child poverty and ensure all have the best
start in life.
I wish you luck with the projects you are involved with and hope
that today's conference helps you in the important task of making
Sure Start a sure success.