Blunkett says policies should assist parents

Click to follow
LABOUR SHOULD set up a working party on family policy to 'learn from parenting elsewhere in the world,' David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, said last night.

Supported by Tony Blair, the shadow Home Secretary, Mr Blunkett is to press the Shadow Cabinet to develop policies specifically geared to the family. He is urging the party to examine the family credit system, which penalises parents who want to work part time, and the targeting of child benefit. While insisting that this should remain a universal benefit, annually uprated, he believes a larger proportion of funding should be considered for people bringing up children on their own.

There was a need for policies to assist parenting, he said at a charity directors' dinner last night. 'We must look at work with families, from the development of nursery provision to family centres where parents are welcome for guidance and support.'

He also emphasised his proposal for young people between 16 and 21 to spend nine months doing paid community service to help them develop a sense of belonging in society.

Mr Blunkett is developing the concept - a kind of 'youth national service' - following a submission to Labour's social justice commission. He said last night it would offer an 'opportunity of meaningful work and support in the years when attitudes towards society are formulated and people feel either valued and needed, or rejected and alienated.'

Mr Blunkett has not ruled out making the scheme compulsory.

Employers, and schools and colleges would have to release young people for the nine months. Contributions towards wages would come from a variety of sources, including local authorities, voluntary organisations and the Treasury. Mr Blunkett believes the scheme is crucial if the Government and the country are serious about creating a moral and political climate in which people are encouraged to think of themselves as part of society, with responsibilities as well as duties.

The Prime Minister said yesterday that the family was 'central' to social and economic policy. 'The implications for the family are fully considered by each department in developing and operating their policies,' he said in a written Commons reply.