Thursday, 17 January 2013

A lot done, a lot more to do...

Last week the government published its mid-term review which was a sort of progress report. Areas where progress had been made included cutting the deficit, giving more independence to schools and reforming the welfare system so that work is rewarded. However, it also highlighted some major challenges still to be addressed such as increasing the state pension and finding a fair way of funding care for the elderly.

There is one other major issue that is important to this part of Cornwall and that is how we tackle the causes of poverty and improve the life chances of the next generation. At the last election I said that I had two major priorities locally. One was to deliver economic regeneration so that we have more and better paid jobs and there will be some very major regeneration projects from Hayle to Redruth starting this year. But we also need to take steps to ensure that those families currently trapped on benefits are given the confidence to take those new jobs and to benefit from that regeneration.

If we are serious about breaking the cycle of disadvantage and serious about giving children from poorer backgrounds the best possible start in life then we need to tackle the causes of disadvantage, not just treat the symptoms through the benefits system.

By the age of three, a toddler’s brain is already 80 percent formed and his or her experiences in those first few years will have influenced how their brain has grown and developed. The things that make a difference are a healthy pregnancy, a secure bonding between mother and child with plenty of love at home, clear boundaries and real attention to developing a child’s communication abilities through reading books and speaking to them.
The evidence is also clear that working parental role models also have an important part to play. Last November I spent a couple of hours at ‘Young Mums Will Achieve’ based at Cornwall College, which targets support at teenage mothers, to hear first hand some of the challenges they face. The project aims to help them back into training and to develop their skills and employment prospects and also provides a crèche at the college. A key part of the project is the peer support that the young mothers give one another.

They had prepared for our meeting in detail and we covered a wide range of problems they encountered including the lack of flexibility from some agencies and the often negative and sometimes abusive attitudes towards them from society which affected their self confidence. That’s a great shame because the young women I met wanted what was best for their children and if we want to break the cycle of poverty in this area, we should want them to succeed too.

George Eustice can be contacted at or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.