Poorest children can be a year behind on language skills when they start school

That was the verdict on research by the Sutton Trust, however, it did say that with good parenting that gap can be closed. In this day and age a child’s future shouldn’t be determined by birth, but it does and I am proud that the Liberal Democrats recognise this and is proposing an extra £2.5bn on education, primarily focusing on the poorest pupils to ensure they are up to speed and also not to hold the brightest pupils back. This can be used by headteachers  how they see fit such as smaller class sizes, one on one tuition or more teaching assistants in classrooms.

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Tories broken society more like a broken record…

At least that’s the verdict by the Economist who disagree with the notion that Britain is in a mess and getting worse.

I have spoken to many public sector and charity workers in Bromsgrove who deal with the people the Tories describe as part of the “Broken Society” and they don’t recognise the term. Sure the country isn’t perfect, but it’s not “broken” and if it was what are the Conservatives doing to help the few who need help the most?

Almost all their policies are aimed at the middle class voters. Marriage tax allowance; inheritance tax threshold increase; allowing parents to run schools (only those with time will do this) and focus on only imprisoning criminals.

The Lib Dems, however, are focusing on helping those most in need to create a better society for all:

  • Increase income tax threshold to £10k to help break the poverty trap and improve the incentives for individuals on low incomes
  • Extra £2.5bn in education for schools with pupils on free school meals. This resource can be used as headteachers deem appropriate, whether smaller classes or one on one tuition. Many classes can only proceed as the slowest pupil so this will benefit all pupils.
  • Scrap tuition fees, to break the psychological barrier of debt for many people going to university. There is enough student debt and c. £10k less would make a big difference to many future graduates
  • 67% of prisoners will re-offend when they are released, why? Because some have no alternative of employment, they may be illiterate, don’t know what to do. We would do more for rehabilitation and give these people skills and the ability to become a part of society.

The homeless – a hidden problem in Bromsgrove

Last week I visited the Basement Project, an award winning Bromsgrove charity based in Bromsgrove Baptist Church, which offers support and advice to 16-25 year olds who are homeless or facing homelessness. It may surprise people in Bromsgrove to think that there is a homeless problem in the area but there are many people affected of all backgrounds for various reasons.

The causes may be breakdown in child/parent relationship, no family support, wrong choices made in life or simply unemployment. The staff at the centre have seen so many cases that they are no longer shocked by anything, although they do find things upsetting.

The centre has 3 projects:

  1. Drop in centre open every week day. Where visitors can have some food, clean themselves up and seek confidential advice whatever the problem.
  2. Outreach service where staff will go and give help on a one-to-one basis with individuals, as they want it
  3. Private tenancy scheme which helps young people to rent a private property with some assistance.

With the Basement staff (l-r Marina, Lance and Elaine)

There are no simple solutions and government help on housing for the under 25 could be improved (they have lower financial support than those older than 25). Improving the educational opportunities for all young people will help more have the skills required to help them through life. Some of the projects work can be as simple as basic life skills, managing money to help with getting a job or further education.

Providing the safety net for those in need is vital, but so is the support to enable them to get out of their situation. Many of these young people are incredibly bright and have aspirations, and we need to ensure the opportunities are there for them.

All party’s could do more, but I am proud that education is at the heart of the Lib Dem’s key policies, especially the scrapping of tuition fees, which is a severe barrier to those with little income in even considering higher education. I will be seeking to understand how housing support for under 25s can be improved.

If you would like to know more about the Basement Project please visit their website or e-mail Elaine Mortimer: elaine@bromsgrovebasementproject.co.uk

With Alison, one of the volunteers at the centre