Blair: Labour has failed children of sink estates

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Tony Blair has admitted the Government has failed to tackle the problem of children of sink estates who are prey to drugs, into crime, badly educated and poorly looked after by their parents.

The Prime Minister announced he is poised to create a Cabinet post for "respect" to tackle the problem of disconnected children from poor housing estates like those portrayed in the movie, Kidulthood.

"We need to examine again their plight with a cabinet minister pulling the work together across government," he said.

But he kept the most likely candidate for the job, Hazel Blears, waiting in the wings for her promotion.

Ms Blears, a Home Office minister, was told she was on a list for promotion immediately after the general election last May. Mr Blair at first considered putting David Blunkett in charge of co-ordinating action on council estates but backed off after a cabinet squabble about the post.

There was intense speculation when Mr Blunkett resigned from the Cabinet that Ms Blears would be brought in to fill the gap, but Mr Blair delayed. Last night, Ms Blears was still in the dark about her possible promotion, which may be delayed until Easter. Mr Blair is thought to be delaying the reshuffle until after the vote on the Education Bill, which will be published next week, but is still facing a rebellion.

Mr Blair was unusually frank in admitting that whoever is appointed to the "respect" portfolio will have a tough task in tackling the past failure of the Government to improve the lives of a generation of children on poor estates. He said they had not been reached by the "huge lift" in support for families by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, in successive budgets.

"We must be honest," he said. "For some, those who are brought up in workless households in poor estates, often poorly education and - frankly - sometimes poorly parented, the rising tide has not helped lift them."

Mr Blair added: "We intervene too late. We spend without asking how effective is the spending. There are the children who are the clients of many agencies of Government but the charges of no one, prey to drugs, into crime and anti-social behaviour, lacking in self-belief, lacking a basic stake in the society into which they are born. It isn't good enough.

"This is not a caring country while we allow such hopelessness to go unchecked. It isn't right and we can't afford it."

Mr Blair ridiculed attempts by the Tory leader, David Cameron, to outflank Labour by setting up a commission under Iain Duncan Smith. but Mr Blair's determination to get to grips with "social inclusion", which he highlighted in a speech to Labour supporters in Scotland, showed the anxiety in Downing Street about Mr Cameron's success in widening his appeal.

The Prime Minister showed little readiness to hand over power to Mr Brown, and warned traditional Labour supporters that they must accept more reforms before he goes.

But last night, one of his closest allies, the former cabinet minister, Stephen Byers, ran into trouble with trade union leaders for calling for the formal link between Labour and the unions to be reformed.

"Labour must learn the lessons of its own history and ensure that the priorities of a small, unrepresentative number of people are not allowed to distort our programme," Mr Byers will say in a speech today. "As part of this process of party renewal, we need to look again at the constitutional link between Labour and the trade unions. I know that simply raising the issue touches a raw nerve but raise it we must." The unions have a say in Labour policy, and Mr Byers is often seen as an outrider for Mr Blair. Tony Woodley, the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, warned Labour against going too far with its reforms. "He may be right about a 'small unrepresentative number of people' distorting Labour's values, but he should look closer to home to find them," he said.

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