Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to improve the "paucity of opportunity" facing many families with a series of social reforms to include better mental health services and mentoring schemes.
As part of an "all-out assault on poverty", the PM promised to flatten 'sink estates', help families save, provide better services for teenagers with anorexia and create more funding for parenting classes.
Setting out what he called a "lifecycle approach" in a speech at the headquarters of charity Family Action in north London, Cameron said that while material poverty continues to affect many, "paucity of opportunity" was now a major issue for British society.
Reforms will focus on four key areas - family life and early years; education; equal opportunity; and treatable problems such as mental health and addiction.
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Really make the difference
He said: "This is what I would call a life-cycle approach - one that takes people from their earliest years, through schooling to adolescence and their adult life.
"I believe that if you take the right action in each of these four areas ... we can make a significant impact on poverty and disadvantage in our country. Supportive families are the best anti-poverty measure ever invente ... and we will bring forward a help-to-save scheme to help those [families] on low incomes to build up a rainy day fund."
Going on to give details of the boost for mentoring, the Convservative leader said CapGemini UK chairwoman Christine Hodgson and the Careers and Enterprise Company would lead a new campaign to encourage role models to share their experiences.
"Many people can look back at their younger selves and point to someone - perhaps a parent or teacher, a sports coach, or their first boss - and say 'that's the person who found my passion," he added.
"They're the ones who made the difference'. But if you haven't ever had someone in your life who really believes in you - who sees your potential and helps bring it to the fore - the sands of time can drain away, and your talents can remain hidden."
Frank and open discussion on mental health
Switching to mental health, the Prime Minister urged "a far more mature approach" about this.
"There should be less hushed tones, less whispering; more frank and open discussion on mental health. We need to take away that shame, that embarrassment, let people know that they're not in this alone, that when the clouds descend, they don't have to suffer silently. I want us to be able to say to anyone who is struggling, 'talk to someone, ask your doctor for help and we will always be there to support you'."
The specific measures on mental health, which will apply in England only, include:
- £290m up to 2020 to give 30,000 more women each year access to specialist mental health care before and after giving birth, including through classes
- £247m over the next five years so that every hospital has mental services in their Accident and Emergency unit
- A new waiting time target for teenagers with eating disorders, which will track the number of patients being seen within a month of being referred
- A target that at least half of people experiencing psychosis for the first time should be treated within two weeks.
Find out more: Cameron to outline plans for extra support for people with mental ill health (Mental Health Today)
'Sea-change in response'
Commenting on the announcements, Sarah Brennan, CEO of YoungMinds, added: “This is the first announcement of its kind from a Prime Minister, and YoungMinds is delighted with government recognition of the importance of good mental health and swift access to care. This announcement, along with implementing the rest of the Future in Mind strategy, signals the sea-change needed in our response to the thousands of young people who are experiencing extreme distress every day. Prevention, early intervention and treatment for mental health problems should be a given for every single child or young person who need them.”
However Lib Dem spokesman Norman Lamb, who was a health minister during the coalition government, said the PM's plans "fell well short" of the ambitions set out by his party and the Conservatives in 2014.
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