Dr Mo Mowlam, Minister for the Cabinet Office with specific responsibility for ensuring that Government delivers on its social exclusion programme, last night outlined the Government's programme to tackle the problems of young people who suffer most from the consequences of social exclusion.
Speaking at the Shaftesbury House & Arethusa AGM to an audience of professionals from local government, health authorities, the voluntary sector, and practitioners who work with young people in education, health, drugs and venture activities, Dr Mowlam said, "The Government is committed to improving opportunities for all young people. And our overall objective is clear - to create a society in which no child lives in poverty and where all children have opportunities to realise their full potential."
Amongst the Government actions to tackle the problems faced by socially excluded young people, both from a background of care and broader society, some of the most important are:
- the Quality Protects programme, a major three year programme to transform the management and delivery of children's services and deliver a radical overhaul of the care system, backed by a grant of £375m;
- the Children (Leaving Care) Bill is now before Parliament, and takes as its starting point the belief that councils' responsibilities towards young people in and leaving care should correspond more closely to those of responsible parents;
- a new Cabinet Committee chaired by Gordon Brown to co-ordinate policies to prevent poverty and underachievement among children and young people;
- a new Government Unit for Children and Young People, reporting to the new 'Minister for Young People', Paul Boateng;
- a new Children's Fund worth £450 million over the next three years, announced as part of the 2000 Spending Review, to help prevent children and young people falling into drug abuse, truancy, exclusion unemployment and crime and to be administered by the Children and Young People's Unit; and
- The Connexions Service providing all teenagers with a Personal Adviser and Education Maintenance Allowances encouraging young people from low-income backgrounds to stay on at school beyond 16.
In conclusion, Dr Mowlam said, "Taken together all these measures add up to a substantial package of support, both personal and financial. We believe they will make a significant difference. And many more initiatives and policies to help and support young people and their families are already in progress and making a real difference: Sure Start; the Working Families Tax Credit; the National Childcare Strategy; and, the New Deal."
"Exclusion is particularly devastating for young people - the problems of life-long exclusion invariably have their roots in early exclusion amongst children and young people. The Government is committed to tackling these problems and creating a future for them in a fair and just society."