Headlines: January 16th, 2002

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott addressing the Fabian Society said that ensuring everybody has access to high quality public services is the best way to lift those who find themselves at the bottom of the ladder into the mainstream. He admitted that often the poorest services are in areas where people need them the most. He spelled out the Government’s strategy of improving services in parallel with action on incomes to provide ‘progressive universalism’ so that standards are raised for all, but more provided for those who need it most.Poor services in deprived areas are being tackled by the introduction of floor targets, or minimum standards for every area in the country. This will result in better schools, improved health care, safer streets and better housing for those who live in deprived communities.

Evidence that the strategy is working includes standards in schools rising fastest in some of the poorest areas in the country; 300,000 young people finding work through the New Deal; rough sleeping down by two-thirds; teenage pregnancy falling and the doubling of rates of teenage parents in education or training.

The New Policy Institute and Fabian Society warned that the Government’s goal to eradicate child and pensioner poverty by the end of the next decade will not be achieved unless current anti-poverty policies improve. They are calling for strategies to improve work and pay for those at the bottom of the labour market and a better deal for those on low incomes from local authorities and public service