- extension of relationship support
- financial education in schools, expanding a pilot CofE scheme designed to help children develop a positive attitude to saving and a responsible attitude to debt.
- expanding the 'Troubled Families' programme to another 400,000 families
- a stronger focus on parenting skills in early years, incentivising the take up of parenting classes and trying to make it a normal part of becoming a parent: "I believe if we are going to extend life chances in our country, it’s time to begin talking properly about parenting and babies and reinforcing what a huge choice having a child is in the first place, as well as what a big responsibility parents face in getting these early years right." (I remember being stunned that, on a parents ante-natal course lasting several weeks, there was not a single bit of input about parenting skills, it was all about the mechanics of late pregnancy, birth, feeding etc. Ante-natal classes and health visitors have a massive opportunity to support parents and to help us learn good habits very early on. Children are too precious and vulnerable to leave this to chance.)
- a clearer focus on character development in education, alongside the acquisition of knowledge and skills
- expand the National Citizens Service to cover 60% of 16 year olds
- targetted mentoring for those most at risk of dropping out of GCSEs
- the much trailed demolition of ugly housing estates (this is fraught with risk - it will be very easy for this not to serve the people who live there, if the estate is anywhere in or around London then developer can make more money by pricing the poor out of the replacement housing built on the site. Judging by the successive waves of housing built around Yeovil, we are getting worse at building low-crime aesthetically good environments, not better, and building regulations and pressure on housing density are driving this, alongside house prices and affordability)
- mental health: continued promotion of an open culture around talking about mental illness, support for new mothers, mental health units in A&E, waiting targets for severe illness
- funding for more research and programmes to treat addiction
If it's done well, this could be one of the most important things this government does. There's evidence here of more in-depth thinking about the causes of poverty than we've seen before. What's interesting is that it goes further than Labour ever dared, in terms of the state taking on more parenting functions (developing character, mentoring).
The proof will be action, rather than words - mental health spending has fallen under the coalition, and Camerons Conservatives have a poor record on housing policy and the vulnerable. They have a life-threatening blind spot on food banks, and the planned cuts to tax credits would have been a punch in the face to anyone earning below £30,000, though thankfully these were reversed.
Whatever the flaws, this policy at last reckons with one of the big social facts of modern Britain, that the family unit in many places no longer does the job it once did, of transmitting value, values, skills and role models from one generation to the next. We have been avoiding the uncomfortable truths for a while, I hope there can be a new political consensus that we need a mixed economy of social and economic policy to tackle poverty, and some of this new thinking could be vital. But it will count for very little if Cameron continues to dismantle the welfare state.
update: good piece from Tim Montgomerie on what Cameron missed out