This week, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published its report The Condition of Britain: Strategies for social renewal which puts forward a new agenda for state and social policy and spending. The report, which focuses largely on welfare, makes more than 20 recommendations including, crucially, ending the ringfence on funds for health and education in a bid to reshape current service spending. This seems to be preparing the ground for an internal debate within the Labour Party on whether to cut spending on education and health.
Consistent with Labour’s increasing emphasis on the importance of early years policy, the report recommends all staff working with two-year-olds should hold at least a level three child development qualification, and 30 per cent should hold a degree in early-years education.
It also proposes funding an expansion of the National Citizen Service, to ensure that by 2020, half of young people aged 16 and 17 are taking part in the two-month-long voluntary service programme. The report notes the programme’s role in helping young people to development empathy, teamwork and communication skills.
The report is significant given IPPR’s close ties with the Labour leadership. It is being billed by Labour insiders as momentous as the IPPR’s 1994 Commission on Social Justice, the report published before Tony Blair’s government was elected.
However, although the report was encouraged by Labour, it is by no means a pre-manifesto for the party. Speaking at the launch of the report, Labour leader Ed Miliband rejected the proposal to freeze the child benefit for over-fives to fund better childcare, saying the party would stick to its existing childcare proposal funded from a bankers’ levy.