We shudder to think about how much has been spent on combating child poverty in the last few years. It’s not that it’s not a worthwhile cause, it’s purely the amount that’s been poured in, and how little affect it seems to have had. So we had a think about how we’d do things differently.
The problem seems to be, as always, the way the money is spent. At the moment, it is largely focussed, understandably, on parents. They are given direct benefits, money is spent on creating jobs for them, schemes and training courses put on, and care workers sent in to families to try to educate the parents directly. So the idea seems to be to end child poverty through ending parent poverty. Not entirely stupid, but it does appear to slightly confuse the issue.
This is because a lot of it doesn’t work. The parents often don’t improve in the ways we hope they will. Money gained from the new job goes on drinking, gambling, shoes, clothes, Sky TV, – just not the child. Training schemes get started but rarely finished and workers sent into homes are relied upon when there, and their advice ignored when they leave.
So we have decided the money should ideally go directly to the children. You could just give them pocket money, to the tune of a few thousand pounds a week. After all, it should be down to the individual to decide what it is that they need the most… then we thought about that properly. The queue at the sweetshop would be ridiculous, and Lego would suddenly overtake Apple as the nation’s favourite brand; there would be mayhem.
What’s needed is a third way, and we reckon this has to be schools. Not because schools are particularly perfect either, but they don’t get drunk, and they don’t spend all their money on candy floss. The money could be channelled into schools, giving them vast pots to basically care for children out of hours. School meals may not be good, but they are better than no meals, and they could also provide clothing, sports, music and social clubs. They’d be acting more like community centres than schools, but community centres targeted at the children that need them.
There would also be additional benefits. You’d be looking at thousands of new jobs in childcare provision. Setting up everything centrally should provide economies of scale allowing for higher quality services. It would keep children off the streets in the evenings. With these community hubs, you could even keep up the training for parents, and vary it, providing classes in parenting, cookery, history or pure maths. Crucially however, the children involved would become something of a community. They might be a little isolated from others, but would nevertheless have each other, and have basic provision, and this is quite possibly more than they have at the moment.
Comments, praise and abuse are accepted and encouraged as always…