Ex soldier left relying on foodbanks slams Cameron & Tories for abandoning war veterans #GE2015

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Infantryman Philip Wesley says the PM was happy to send soldiers into battle but has given them nothing back!

A former soldier has launched a stinging attack on David Cameron for failing to support war veterans.

Infantryman Philip Wesley says the PM was “happy” to send soldiers into battle but has given them “nothing back.”

The father-of-one says his life since leaving the Army has been one of food banks, low-paid work, soaring energy bills and expensive housing.

At every turn he has faced difficulties because of the policies of the Conservative-led government , he reveals.

Mr Wesley, 27, served five years in the Army including two tours of Afghanistan.

He had to leave in 2012 to look after his daughter Violet, now three-and-a-half.

On return to his home city of Birmingham, he found it impossible to get a council house for them to live in.

“I was laughed at. I waited two years for social housing.

“In the end the British Legion gave me the money for a deposit so I could rent privately,” he explains.

The problem was the bedroom tax. So many people hit by the bedroom tax had to move out of three-bedroom homes meaning there were not enough two-bed properties available for people such as Philip.

“To be honest with you I was expecting a lot more. I have had help from the British Legion but absolutely nothing from the MoD.

“The main issue for me was housing. I had nowhere to live and I was still at the very bottom of the list.

“There were no two bed homes that were suitable for me. It was crazy.”

His mother who has severe epilepsy has also been hit by the bedroom tax.

Because his house had no central heating he racked up a £700 electricity bill to heat the home for his daughter.

“I was alright, I put on coats but my daughter was cold,” he says matter of factly.

At one point he had to rely on foodbanks to feed his family.

“And that was when I was working,” he said.

“We are supposed to be one of the most developed countries in the world and we have people having to use foodbanks,” he adds in a video made for the Labour Party.

Mr Wesley is now studying for a computing degree at Birmingham Metropolitan University, even though this will cost him £9,000 a year in tuition fees.

While he is full of praise for the support he received from the British Legion, his verdict on Mr Cameron is damning.

“Whenever I hear David Cameron saying anything it makes my blood boil. The only thing David Cameron sees when he looks at the Armed Forces is money and how much it will cost him. It’s just all numbers to him,” he says.

And he says other veterans have experienced similar problems.

“He’s (Cameron) happy to throw us into these wars but we get nothing back. There are people who have done a hell of a lot for their country and I don’t think it’s been rewarded in the slightest,” he says.

In December, Mr Cameron praised the Armed Forces as Britain marked the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

“Everyone in this country is forever in your debt,” he said.

Labour’s Jack Dromey said: “A war hero who fought for his country has been let down by Cameron’s Britain.

“He thought he was returning to a country fit for heroes but at every turn they have made it more difficult for him and his family.

“Labour will abolish the bedroom tax that has hit Philip’s family hard.

“Labour will cut tuition fees by £3,000 so people like Philip can get on and Labour will never let our Armed Forces veteran down in this way.”

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The Danczuks, Never Mind Quality Of Our ‘Facts’ Just Admire Our Rhetoric! 1/2 #GE2015 #RaceForNumber10

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“On immigration, Karen says Rochdale is at the “end of its tether”.  Simon adds: “The liberal intelligentsia, this north London liberal elite, don’t have to live with the problem.  Proportionally there are more asylum seekers in Rochdale than in London.”

The reason people should listen to them, they say, whether it is on child abuse or the problems of welfare, is that their views come from experience.  “If my mum had been forced to work and not live her life as a single parent on benefits, she would have had a job and friends and a better life, which would have benefited me,” Karen says.

And immigration?  A rich country like the UK should take in asylum seekers and economic migrants, Simon argues.  But Rochdale’s cheap housing makes it a magnet. “I do feel that the strains and stresses being put on a relatively small town is unfair.  It is all about fairness.” ”

We’ll keep telling it like it is on welfare, immigration and the liberal elite

Out of a population of 8,173,941 in London in 2011, 63% or 5,175,677 stated their country of birth as the United Kingdom (see first table).

Out of a population of 211,699 in Rochdale in 2011, 89% or 188,102 stated their country of birth as the United Kingdom (see second table).

See next post for details of the non-UK born short-term residents in both areas in 2011.

Country of Birth by Sex (2011 Census)

Units: Persons
Date 2011
Geography London
All persons Males Females
All categories: Country of birth 8,173,941 4,033,289 4,140,652
Europe: Total 6,174,371 3,063,095 3,111,276
Europe: United Kingdom: Total 5,175,677 2,589,406 2,586,271
Europe: United Kingdom: England 4,997,072 2,496,875 2,500,197
Europe: United Kingdom: Northern Ireland 32,774 16,847 15,927
Europe: United Kingdom: Scotland 89,527 47,279 42,248
Europe: United Kingdom: Wales 53,828 27,045 26,783
Europe: United Kingdom: Great Britain not otherwise specified 544 275 269
Europe: United Kingdom: United Kingdom not otherwise specified 1,932 1,085 847
Europe: Ireland 129,807 59,884 69,923
Europe: Other Europe: Total 868,887 413,805 455,082
Europe: Other Europe: EU countries: Total 711,133 338,198 372,935
Europe: Other Europe: EU countries: Member countries in March 2001 341,981 163,032 178,949
Europe: Other Europe: EU countries: Accession countries April 2001 to March 2011 369,152 175,166 193,986
Europe: Other Europe: Rest of Europe 157,754 75,607 82,147
Africa 621,613 295,781 325,832
Middle East and Asia 966,990 490,027 476,963
The Americas and the Caribbean 326,280 143,476 182,804
Antarctica, Oceania (including Australasia) and other 84,687 40,910 43,777

In order to protect against disclosure of personal information, records have been swapped between different geographic areas.  Some counts will be affected, particularly small counts at the lowest geographies.

Country of Birth by Sex (Census 2011)

Units: Persons

Date 2011
Geography Rochdale
All persons Males Females
All categories: Country of birth 211,699 103,642 108,057
Europe: Total 194,495 95,069 99,426
Europe: United Kingdom: Total 188,102 92,029 96,073
Europe: United Kingdom: England 184,354 90,231 94,123
Europe: United Kingdom: Northern Ireland 886 423 463
Europe: United Kingdom: Scotland 1,929 918 1,011
Europe: United Kingdom: Wales 915 449 466
Europe: United Kingdom: Great Britain not otherwise specified 4 3 1
Europe: United Kingdom: United Kingdom not otherwise specified 14 5 9
Europe: Ireland 1,852 825 1,027
Europe: Other Europe: Total 4,541 2,215 2,326
Europe: Other Europe: EU countries: Total 4,161 2,037 2,124
Europe: Other Europe: EU countries: Member countries in March 2001 1,447 672 775
Europe: Other Europe: EU countries: Accession countries April 2001 to March 2011 2,714 1,365 1,349
Europe: Other Europe: Rest of Europe 380 178 202
Africa 2,654 1,319 1,335
Middle East and Asia 13,883 6,901 6,982
The Americas and the Caribbean 497 252 245
Antarctica, Oceania (including Australasia) and other 170 101 69
In order to protect against disclosure of personal information, records have been swapped between different geographic areas.  Some counts will be affected, particularly small counts at the lowest geographies.

The Danczuks, The Dangerous Dogs Act & Those Enduring Myths About Lone Parents #GE2015 #RaceForNumber10

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“In a political arena in which words are carefully chosen, PR narratives carefully designed, and human frailties rarely admitted, the Danczuks stick out.  They both come from broken families, in which dependence on benefits was par for the course.

Karen, one of five children, was the only one to carry on her education after school and says she lives a life that her siblings wouldn’t recognise.”

“Danczuk has been an outspoken critic of politics geared towards the metropolitan elite.  On welfare, he and his wife agree that Labour isn’t tough enough.  “Instead of people being sat around on benefits, if they are capable of work why not have them make a contribution locally and keep them in mind for work,” Simon says. “If you want to call it hard-line, so be it.” ”

“The reason people should listen to them, they say, whether it is on child abuse or the problems of welfare, is that their views come from experience.  “If my mum had been forced to work and not live her life as a single parent on benefits, she would have had a job and friends and a better life, which would have benefited me,” Karen says.”

We’ll keep telling it like it is on welfare, immigration and the liberal elite

Well, Karen, in my experience your kind of subjective approach to policy making leads to Dangerous Dogs Act outcomes.  Personally, speaking, again from experience, I think we have already had quite enough of that sort of ‘informed’ approach to Social Security and Welfare to Work.

Alas, for Simon and Karen, I am not a member of the metropolitan, liberal elite, although I do live in a metropolitan county.  I was, though, Birmingham and Solihull’s lead Employment Service Implementation Manager for New Deal for Lone Parents in 1998 and a deputy Childcare Partnership Manager for the same area in the late 2000s.  I know a fair bit about Children’s Centres, I have worked alongside Gingerbread and the National Council for One Parent Families, I have worked with groups supporting lone parents, groups of lone parents and I have even interviewed a fair few lone parents in my time.  I suspect that gives me as much, if not more insight than the Danczuks into the challenges facing lone parents, but I would not say enough of an insight to be able, on my own, to draft policies addressing those challenges.  I may know most of the questions to ask, but few of the answers to them.  I know my limitations!

In over two decades I only ever came across one person who regarded herself as married to the State.  Frankly, I was gob smacked that anyone would want to be a lone parent until they claimed their State Pension at 60, but this person was very much the exception to the rule.  I did segue into the dependant on the State line on the grounds that surely she would not want to bring up more children on just Income Support.  What about their quality of life?  I say more children as she was in front of me, because her youngest child had reached 16 and so she had no option, but to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.  She seemed more than a bit put out by the requirement to be both available for and actively seeking work.  She took the line that at 40 or so it was too late to take up employment hence the discussion of possible alternatives to paid work.

Now, Karen and Simon would it really be a good idea to build our party’s (that is Labour’s, by the way, and not ukip’s) policies for lone parents on that interview alone?  You certainly seem to think that your personal experiences are representative evidence of the behaviour of the typical (tabloid) single parent and thus the basis on which to formulate a tougher Social Security regime for lone parents.  Or would it be better to adopt an evidence based approach?  One starting with the facts (listed below) about single parents, courtesy of Gingerbread, an organisation that thinks discussions about lone parents (a very diverse group) should be based on reality and not myths.

Incidentally, Karen is Simon’s second wife and he had two children with his first partner so I guess he knows a bit about making lone parent families (see fourth bullet point in the list below), if nothing else about them.  A policy of tough on lone parents, but not tough on those who put many in that position, eh, Simon?  And what happened to sticking with one’s husband or wife through thick and thin until death do you part, eh, Simon?  Surely, a big problem is the ease with which one may get divorced, eh, Simon?  Now is it not the liberal elite which was responsible for making divorce easier, eh, Simon?  Shame on you Simon, a working class boy, for allowing yourself to be seduced from the path of righteousness into the path of divorce.

Simon, some days I wish I had been born a decade or so earlier than I was so I might enjoy the experience of living through the 1960s first hand.  I get the distinct impression that you (like Farage, Howard and Blair) wish that decade had never happened.  Well it did, get over it and move on.  And, I have no problem with your divorce or the divorce laws, but I do with your hypocrisy.

Roy Jenkins was a real Socialist when it came to addressing the social issues of the 1960s.  He saw through Parliament, when Home Secretary, the permanent abolition of hanging, the relaxation of the licensing laws, the ending of theatre censorship and introduced a ground breaking Race Relations Bill.  He secured government time to ensure the passage of Private Members’ Bills on both homosexuality, finally legalising it and abortion.  He ended flogging in prisons.

In 1976 he told the Police Federation conference that for many prisoners, prison did not work.  He urged them to look at the evidence and to recognise how little the widespread use of prison reduces crime or deals effectively with the individuals concerned.  Faced with concerted booing, he gave his hostile audience a lecture on democracy.  The rule of law in a democratic society did not mean our pet prejudices, but the rule of Parliament as applied by the courts.  One cannot have a rule of law while dismissing with disparagement Parliament, the courts and those who practise in them.  The job of the police and that of the Home Secretary, he told them, is to apply the law as it is and not to decry it.

Roy Jenkins was one of the most reforming Home Secretaries of all time.  He was in favour of evidence based policy.  I understand you think people like me are in the wrong party, because we are proud not only of his bringing in such liberal legislation, but because we want to do more?  That our liberal tendencies makes us less socialist than you?  Personally, I think you would be more at home in ukip with its net curtain twitching, back to the 1950s, knee jerk attitudes than in a party which is at its best when it bases policy on evidence not anecdote.  Evidence, Karen, tinged with more than just a little empathy for those worse off than ourselves.

And now for those facts about single parents

There are 2 million single parents in Britain today (1) – they make up a quarter of families with children, a figure which has remained consistent for the past decade (2)

Less than 2 per cent of single parents are teenagers (3)

The median age of single parents is 38.1 (4)

Around half of single parents had their children within marriage – 49 per cent are separated from marriage, divorced or widowed (5)

63.4 per cent of single parents are in work, up 19.6 percentage points since 1996 (6)

The employment rate for single parents varies depending on the age of their youngest child.  Once their children are 12 or over, single parents’ employment rate is similar to, or higher than, the employment rate for mothers in couples (71 per cent of single parents whose child is 11-15 are in work) (7)

Who are single parents?

There are 3 million children living in a single parent household (23% per cent of all dependent children) (8)

Around 8 per cent of single parents (186,000) are fathers (9)

The average duration of single parenthood is around 5 years (10)

Only 6.5 per cent of all births are registered alone, and 10 per cent are registered to two parents who live apart (11)

Single fathers are more likely to be widowed than single mothers (12 per cent of single fathers are widowed, compared with 5 per cent of single mothers), and their children tend to be older (12)

Just under half of couples divorcing in 2009 had at least one child aged under 16.  Over a fifth (21 per cent) of the children in 2009 were under five and 63 per cent were under eleven (13)

The proportion of single parent families has increased since the 1970s, but it hasn’t changed much in the last ten years

In 1971 just 8 per cent of families with children were single parent families (14)

In 1998 24 per cent of families with children were single parent families (15)

In 2011 26 per cent of families with children were single parent families (16)

Single parent families and poverty:

Children in single parent families are nearly twice as likely as children in couple families to live in relative poverty.  Over four in every 10 (42 per cent) children in single parent families are poor, compared to just over two in 10 (23 per cent) of children in couple families (17)

Paid work is not a guaranteed route out of poverty for single parent families; the poverty rate for children in single parent families where the parent works part-time is 30 per cent, and 22 per cent where the parent works full-time (18).

The median weekly income for working single parent families doing 16 hours a week or more is £337, compared with £491 for couple families with one worker and £700 where both parents work (19)

43 per cent of single parents are social housing tenants compared to 12 per cent of couples (20)

71 per cent of all single parent renters receive housing benefit compared to 25 per cent of all couple renters (21)

Single parent households are the most likely to be in arrears on one or more household bills, mortgage or non-mortgage borrowing commitment (31 per cent) (22)

38 per cent of single parents said that money always runs out before the end of the week/month compared to 19 per cent of couples (23)

63 per cent of single parents have no savings compared to 34 per cent of couples (24)

Work and childcare

Where single parents are not working, this is often because there are health issues that make work difficult: 33 per cent of unemployed single parents have a disability or long-standing illness (25) and 34 per cent have a child with a disability (26)

Over half of single parents are in work (59.2 per cent), up 14.5 percentage points since 1997.  In the same period, the employment rate of mothers in couples has risen three percentage points to 71 per cent (27)

Single parents rely heavily on informal childcare.  Of those using childcare, 46 per cent said it was informal. (28)  For single parents working 16 hours a week or more 34 per cent had a childcare arrangement with the child’s grandparents, and 17 per cent had an arrangement with their ex-partner (29)

Working single parents paying for childcare are much more likely than working couples paying for childcare to find it difficult to meet childcare costs (32% compared to 22% of couples where one partner is in work, and 20% of couples where both work) (30)

Child maintenance

Only two-fifths (38 per cent) of single parents receive maintenance from their child’s other parent (31)

For all those with an agreement for child maintenance (both through the CSA and private arrangement) the median weekly amount received is £46 per family (32)

The average amount of child maintenance liable to be paid through the CSA is currently £33.50 per week (£22.50 if all cases with a weekly assessment of zero are included in the average). (33)  Among parents with care in receipt of income-related benefits, the average amount is £23 (excluding cases with a weekly assessment of zero) (34)

Of single parents receiving child maintenance through the CSA, 40 per cent receive less than £10 per week, 38 per cent receive between £10 and £50 per week and 22 per cent receive more than £50 per week (35)

Family life

At least 9 per cent of single parents share the care of their child equally, or nearly equally, with the other parent (36)

The majority of children have face to face contact with their other parent.  71 per cent of resident parents said that their child had direct contact with the other parent (37)

65 per cent of those with contact said this included overnight stays, usually at least monthly (38)

Only 20 per cent of all resident parents say that their child has no contact with their other parent (39).  Of these, 63 per cent said there had been no contact since the parental relationship ended (40)

Parental separation by itself is not considered predictive of poor outcomes in children (41)  Parental conflict has been identified as a key mediating variable in producing negative outcomes in children.  A comparison between couple families experiencing high levels of conflict with single parent families found that children fared less well in conflicted couple families, demonstrating that family functioning has a greater impact than family structure in contributing to child outcomes (42)

Parental separation and the resulting single parent status often leads to financial hardship.  That resulting poverty may be a significant factor in explaining poorer child outcomes rather than family structure (43)

References

    1. Families and households 2014, Office for National Statistics, 2015
    2. Families and households 2014, Office for National Statistics, 2015
    3. Figure produced for Gingerbread by the Fertility and Family Analysis Unit, Office of National Statistic and derived from the Annual Population Survey (APS), (Labour Force Survey plus boost), 2009 data
    4. Lone parents with dependent children, January 2012, Office for National Statistics
    5. Lone parents with dependent children, January 2012, Office for National Statistics
    6. Working and Workless Households, 2014, Table P. Office for National Statistics, October 2014
    7. Families with children in Britain: Findings from the 2008 Families and children study (FACS), Table 3.2. Department for Work and Pensions, 2010
    8. Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2009/10, Table 4.1ts. Department for Work and Pensions, 2011
    9. Lone parents with dependent children, January 2012, Office for National Statistics
    10. Leaving Lone Parenthood: Analysis of the repartnering patterns of lone mothers in the U.K. Skew, A., Berrington, A., Falkingham, J. 2008, on data from 2005
    11. Derived from Households and Families, Social Trends 41, Table 6 & 7. ONS, 2011. Data from 2009
    12. Analysis of Labour Force Survey data from June 2006 produced for Gingerbread by ONS
    13. Divorces in England and Wales 2009. ONS Statistical Bulletin, February 2011
    14. General Household Survey 2007, Table 3.6. ONS, 2009
    15. General Lifestyle Survey, 2009, Table 3.6. ONS, 2011
    16. Lone parents with dependent children, January 2012, Office for National Statistics
    17. Households below average income (HBAI): 1994/95 to 2012/13,Table 4.14ts. Department for Work and Pensions, 2014
    18. Households below average income (HBAI): 1994/95 to 2012/13,Table 4.14ts. Department for Work and Pensions, 2014
    19. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 6.3. DWP, 2010
    20. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 9.1. DWP, 2010
    21. English Housing Survey, Household Report 2009 – 10, Table 3.6. Department for Communities and Local Government, 2011
    22. Wealth in Great Britain. Main Results from the Wealth and Assets Survey 2006/08, p.108. ONS, 2009
    23. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 8.8. DWP, 2010
    24. Family Resource Survey UK, 2008-2009, Table 4.10. Department for Work and Pensions, 2010
    25. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 3.2. DWP, 2010
    26. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 12.5. DWP, 2010
    27. Working and Workless Households, 2012, Table P. ONS Statistical Bulletin, August 2012
    28. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 16.5. DWP, 2010
    29. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 16.1. DWP, 2010
    30. Childcare and early years survey of parents 2009, p.83. NatCen/Department for Education, 2010. Research Report DFE-RR054
    31. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 15.1. DWP, 2010
    32. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 15.4b. DWP, 2010
    33. Child Support Agency national statistics, June 2011. CMEC/DWP, 2011
    34. Parliamentary Question, Hansard 24/03/2011, col 1242W
    35. PQ response to Karen Buck, March 2011, Letter from Stephen Geraghty (CMEC), 17/3/11 Col 566W
    36. Problematic contact after separation and divorce. Peacey, V., Hunt, J. Gingerbread, 2008
    37. I’m not saying it was easy…Contact problems in separated families. Peacey, V., Hunt, J. Gingerbread, 2009
    38. I’m not saying it was easy…Contact problems in separated families. Peacey, V., Hunt, J. Gingerbread, 2009
    39. Problematic contact after separation and divorce. Peacey, V., Hunt, J. Gingerbread, 2008
    40. I’m not saying it was easy . . . Contact problems in separated families. Peacey, V., Hunt, J. Gingerbread, 2009
    41. Impact of Family Breakdown on Children’s Well-Being. Mooney, A., Oliver, C., Smith, M. Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, 2009
    42. Impact of Family Breakdown on Children’s Well-Being. Mooney, A., Oliver, C., Smith, M. Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, 2009
    43. Impact of Family Breakdown on Children’s Well-Being. Mooney, A., Oliver, C., Smith, M. Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, 2009

#ukip Would Scrap #ChildrensCentres & #SureStart! #ThanetSouth

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Well, well, well …  Who knew it?  ukip’s latest policy on welfare was out there all the time!  Basically, they aim to be tough on those in poverty and well to the right of IDS when it comes to social policy.

How do I know this?  I was chatting with someone the other day about ukip’s all things to all men (women know your place!) Bedroom Tax policy and I mused about where they stood on other Social Security issues.  My friend sent me this link to their last set of policies.  One of which alone kills dead the idea that ukip would really stand up for the left behind, the axing of Sure Start.

Yes, I know, we must await the much anticipated Manifesto, whose unveiling has become like a particularly arthritic Dance of the Seven Veils.  First, it was to appear early this year; next Friday 23rd May, conveniently a day after the European Elections; then later in the summer; then later this month, but the last I read was that only a few key policies would be unveiled in Doncaster.  Would they be those of which Farage has already spoken?  For example, the National Minimum Wage and tax ‘cuts’ policy and the ones listed in this article?  Until they repudiate their previous anti-poverty proposals then we may assume that they are still current or, at the very least still being considered for their Manifesto.

Sure Start, established under Labour; a major issue at the last General Election and broadly supported by the mainstream parties is practically the quintessential policy for helping the left behind within a few years of their leaving their cradles.  It is a lot less controversial and judgmental than the current government’s Troubled Families Programme.  Troubled Families expects almost overnight easily measurable outputs and outcomes.  We will not know the full impact, good and/or bad of Sure Start until the first cohort of beneficiaries reaches the age of 18.  Anyone who thinks Sure Start to be a waste of money is either ignorant, stupid and/or cares nothing for those who start their lives at the rear of the convoy and who steadily fall behind as the voyage progresses.  No wonder Nigel Farage studiously avoids discussing ukip’s social policies in any open forum.

Sure Start, based on Head Start in the United States of America, aims to prevent poor children, often from very deprived areas, from experiencing an opportunity gap opening up between them and the children of those in higher income groups.  Put simply, if the poorest children do not get a hand up before the age of 5 then in most cases they will never improve on the position at which they started.  Truly, these children are the left behind.

I am in no way criticising the parents of these disadvantaged children.  Many were themselves disadvantaged and could not break out of the poverty trap.  Unlike so many of the Commentariat and the likes of Matthew Goodwin, I have grown up alongside them, met them and those working with them (and supported both during my career).  I have not, Gradgrind like, sat at my computer and written reports, recommendations and so forth after just reading the latest statistics, opinion polls and the comment pieces of others.  I suspect many of you reading this now have done the same as me and share my respect and awe for the efforts to which these parents (and families) go to try and give their children a better start in life than they had.  Sometimes it is heartbreaking to think what the future may hold for these children.  Sure Start is all about giving the poorest children a more than even chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty.  Crucially, it also helps their parents to help themselves to improve their lot and thus the lot of their children.

Poverty is about more than just money, as important as that is to getting out of it, it also denies people the chance to experience new things and different cultures.  It denies them the opportunity to go to art galleries, the theatre, the cinema, in fact to enjoy the rich and varied culture of our society and other societies that many, not in poverty, take for granted.  I must confess I am a Bevanite snob, if it is good enough for them then it is good enough for us!  You might even call me a Champagne Socialist.  I have tried it, do not like it, but like a glass or two of port after a good dinner.  And yet I sprang from the working class in what still is one of the poorest parts of Birmingham.  And although Children’s Centres, a key component of Sure Start, do not I assume promote the drinking of port, they do in part aim to broaden the horizons of children.

There is something else about Children’s Centres.  They are non means tested.  Consequently, there was at least a hope that children across social groups and income levels would mingle and learn a bit about each other, thereby, promoting community cohesion and understanding.  Who knows, they might just develop the friendships, networks and connections for which some parents send their children to private schools, public schools and Oxbridge.  More than a touch of social engineering there?  I am not sure if that has come to pass.

Locally, Labour rolled out the centres in three tranches, starting with the hardest to help areas.  The Tories, on coming to power in Birmingham scaled back the third phase, but then the deprived children of Falcon Lodge might have met and played with the well off children of the rest of Andrew Mitchell’s Constituency of Sutton Coldfield, one of the most affluent areas outside of London and South East.  We cannot have the kids off the estate learning that only money separates them from their ‘betters’, can we?

Story Wood Children’s Centre (previously Brambles/Sure Start Kingstanding) is one of the Children’s Centres I had the pleasure to visit in my time as a Civil Servant.  Story Wood is at the heart of the community it serves and is on the site of Story Wood School.  Some of the detail of what the Children’s Centre does is here.  For me, Children’s Centres are my kind of Socialism and something of which to be unashamedly proud.  I visited one a couple of times at a Junior and Infant School that I used to attend.  And that was a very deprived area (in terms of money) when Mom, Dad, my brother and me lived there.  Thankfully, things have improved somewhat and I helped a little with some of that improvement in recent years.

Whilst talking about ukip policies more generally, I would observe that Children’s Centres operate under the auspices of local authorities, but not all are run by them.  Lakeside was set up by Enta, a widely respected Voluntary and Community Sector organisation and like a lot of Children’s Centres engages in a variety of ways with the parents who use the Centre’s services.  Jargon like empowerment springs to mind, but not ukip’s ‘Power to the People’ ideas.  Helping to run a Children’s Centre your children attend is power to the people.  Closing it is not.

Were ukip to have its way then closing Children’s Centres would leave the left behind, both children and parents further behind; put trained professionals in a variety of child related disciplines out of work; remove community centres from communities with few or no other community facilities; waste a lot of money in a variety of ways and I suspect leave more than a few children heartbroken.  Thankfully those who use and have used the centres are not easily fooled (which is a sign they are working).  They made the survival of their centres an issue in the last General Election.  David Cameron said none would be closed on his watch.  Somewhere in the region of 250 have gone, but a network remains, even where authorities are Tory run.  The equivalent of the NHS of the First Age has developed deep roots, thankfully.

Replacing Early Years’ Funding, Sure Start, the childcare element of Working Tax Credit and the tax relief on Employer Nursery Vouchers into a flat-rate, non-means tested Nursery Voucher to cover approximately half the cost of a full-time nursery place is no answer to the challenges facing the children of the left behind.  The bulk of the funding being replaced by the voucher currently goes on the left behind.  Under ukip, the likes of David (I claimed Disability Living Allowance) Cameron would get some of the money if he used a voucher.  ukip proposes a simplistic answer to a complex set of problems and moves money away from where it is most needed.  Could they be seeking the votes of Tories with a non means tested voucher?

And for any ukiper who has read this far, rather than posting a comment accusing me of a smear and/or being a paedophile, Children’s Centres provide childcare, support for lone parents and employ a lot of women.  Is your blood boiling now?  If you closed Children’s Centres you would reduce the amount of childcare, possibly pushing up the price of that remaining.  We know you do not like lone parents, women in the workplace and seemingly women in general.  However, let me cause you some more grief, men are lone parents too and men work in childcare.  One of the latter I met had worked on the track at Rover before being made redundant.  Oh, and around 8% of HGV drivers are women!

If Labour (and to a great extent) the other mainstream parties have left people behind through Sure Start then we are guilty as charged.  Perhaps this policy is further proof that ukip is seeking to attract and retain the support and votes of the poorly educated, uncultured and those seemingly lacking in empathy?  Why does one need to have a reading age of more than seven, because with it you can comprehend The Sun?  Why do you need to know the difference between a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh?  They are all ‘foreigners’, are they not?  And, if you start developing emotional intelligence then you might just realise that the Muslim family down the road or the lone parent around the corner has a harder life than you.  Why is this starting to sound familiar?  These are the tunes played by the Hard Right since time immemorial.  Divide and conquer, divide and rule.