Bid to improve region’s children’s life chances

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A programme of innovative work to improve children’s life chances has been revealed by the Liverpool City Region Child Poverty and Life Chances Commission.

Publishing their latest annual report, the new programme represents the next step to deliver the long-term vision to reduce child

poverty across the City Region and ensure that children get the very best start in life.

As a key plank of the programme the Commission has been given the green light by the Government to seek a selection of schools and nurseries across the City Region to pilot the new ‘Brief Early Skills and Support Index’ (BESSI).

BESSI has been developed by researchers at Cambridge University as an accurate, reliable, and user-friendly way of measuring a child’s development up to when they start school at the age of 4 or 5.

The results will then inform policy and incentives that focus on improving a child’s life chances in the longer term.

As well as the introduction of BESSI, the Commission’s work programme for the year ahead will be built upon six pillars:

· Expanding its successful Quit Buddy project which has already helped hundreds of pregnant women in Halton and Knowsley quit smoking during pregnancy

· Ensuring all eligible children are automatically registered for free school meals and are also able to access free meals and fun during school holidays

· Investigating the impact of new childcare reforms and changes in education funding on disadvantaged children’s life chances and submit these findings to the Government

· Reviewing the travel options available to young people in partnership with Merseytravel, thereby ensuring they are not excluded from important activities

· Assessing the cumulative impact of welfare reform on families with children, seeking new ways of countering the reforms with paid work opportunities, and campaigning against reforms that are having the most detrimental impact on families’ living standards

· Identifying the most effective interventions funded by the Early Years Pupil Premium Funding and encouraging each local authority to follow these examples

The Commission’s Chair, Frank Field MP, said: “The Commission has achieved some notable successes to date which have helped children across the Liverpool City Region get the very best start in life.

“We are now looking to build on these successes, and learn from those areas where much more progress is required, on two fronts: to implement an effective life chances programme across the City Region, as well as to exert a crucial influence over government policy.

“The introduction of BESSI, in particular, represents a game changing move which holds the potential to prevent poverty being passed down from one generation to the next.”