What will a Labour government do for children?

Photo of Elijah Cruz against blank wall
Elijah Cruz - Digital Communications Officer
Friday 05 July 2024
Mother with her two children in the living room of their home. The mother is holding a baby and the other little girl is laughing and looking at the camera while sucking her thumb.

With the first change of government in 14 years, we’d like to see Labour act quickly to address the huge challenges facing children and families across the country.

Let’s look at how far Labour’s manifesto commitments go towards tackling the key challenges we're campaigning on.

The next government must lift children out of poverty

Every child deserves the essentials to thrive.

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1. Lifting families out of poverty

There are 4.3 million children in poverty in the UK, and 1 million living in destitution.

Labour has pledged to ‘develop an ambitious strategy to reduce child poverty’ through collaboration. So far, there hasn’t been any more detail on this strategy other than introducing free breakfast clubs in every primary school.

We're pleased to see Labour commit to personalised employment support to help people into work - recognising that without proper support, work isn’t the simple route out of poverty that it is often made out to be.

What we still need to see:

  • Clear, measurable targets to end child poverty in a generation.
  • A strong social security system that’s there for people when they most need it.
  • An end to the punitive and ‘any job’ mindset that only serves to push people further away from work.
Young boy wearing coat and gloves outside

2. Keeping children safe from exploitation

Exploitation by criminal groups is shattering the lives and stealing the futures of thousands of children across the country.

Labour has said it will ‘introduce a new offence of criminal exploitation of children, to go after the gangs who are luring young people into violence and crime.’ It has pledged ‘services for vulnerable teenagers at risk of being drawn into a life of violence’ and to ‘halve knife crime in a decade’.

It has also pledged early intervention to prevent children being exploited through ‘Young Future Hubs’. We plan to work closely with Labour on getting the detail right.

What we still need to see:

  • A wider legal code that defines criminal exploitation of children as a form of child abuse, and which includes legal protections for children who have committed criminal acts under exploitation.
  • A joined-up national strategy to tackle exploitation across all four UK nations and government departments.
Criminal exploitation of children - report cover image

3. Transforming children’s social care

There's a record number of children in care in the UK – around 100,000.

Labour has stated that ‘every child should have a loving, secure home’ but have given little detail on how it will ‘work with local government to support children in care’. We’re hopeful that further commitments will soon be made – as wholesale reform and investment is needed in the UK’s social care systems.

What we still need to see:

  • Investment in providing more good-quality homes, in the right places, to address the crisis in placements.
  • National ‘reunification’ guidance to support more children to successfully return home from care.
  • Targeted support for young people leaving care transitioning to independent living.

Child Social Care

4. Providing early help for families facing problems

Early intervention services for families have been cut by almost 50% since 2010.

As a member of the Children’s Charities Coalition, we welcome Labour’s promise of a single unique identifier for every child to improve data sharing across services - something we have been calling for.

The Labour manifesto talks ambitiously about prevention to improve young people’s mental health and to tackle knife crime. They should do the same for family crisis and children at risk of going into care.

What we still need to see:

The new government should introduce a legal duty on local authorities to provide early help, backed by significant funding, including:

  • Universal services which every family can access, including digital and online support.
  • Targeted support for families experiencing multiple challenges.
  • Integrated services so there’s ‘one front door’ for families in need of help.
  • Specialist provision for older children, such as mental health support and protection from exploitation.
Child in care new home

5. Expanding childcare, improving mental health services and providing support for disabled children

We’re pleased to see Labour recognise the need to increase access to childcare, to improve mental health support available in schools and through new Youth Hubs, and the need for disabled and SEN children to access education that meets their needs.

What we still need to see:

  • Free childcare entitlements expanded further to parents in education or training, as currently this acts as a barrier to decent, sustainable work.
  • Support in existing early years provision - in addition to their promise to open more nurseries - as existing providers and staff in the sector are facing a host of pressures affecting recruitment, retention, and financial stability.
No child should miss out because they can't get support

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We will continue to campaign to ensure that every child has the safe, happy, healthy childhood they deserve, and to offer our support to the new government in making this goal a reality.