Tory Conference 2015: What David Cameron said about poverty

Prime Minister says the 'Conservatives need to tackle the root causes to solve the problem'

Wednesday 07 October 2015 13:49 BST
David Cameron delivers his speech at the Tory Party conference
David Cameron delivers his speech at the Tory Party conference (EPA)

David Cameron has given his keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference 2015 in Manchester.

Here is what the Prime Minister said about poverty:

Central to tackling big social problems is an all-out assault on poverty.

Conservatives understand that if we’re serious about solving the problem, we need to tackle the root causes of poverty.

Homes where no-one works; children growing up in chaos; addiction, mental health problems, abuse, family breakdown.

Today, a teenager sitting their GCSEs is more likely to own a smartphone than have a dad living with them.

Think of your own child, think of the day they were born; how fragile they were…

…and then think that, every day, three babies are born in Britain addicted to heroin.

We’ll never deal with poverty unless we get to grips with these issues.

We made a start in the last five years with our Troubled Families programme.

It’s already turned around the lives of over 100,000 families.

And do you know one of its central aims?

It’s simple: get the adults a job.

Because we know in this party that the best route out of poverty is work.

That’s why we reformed welfare, introduced the cap and helped create 2.5 million jobs.

But it’s not enough simply to have a job: work has got to pay.

Nearly two-thirds of children in poverty have parents who are in jobs. For them, work hasn’t worked.

That’s why we’ve cut taxes for the lowest paid and we’ll keep on doing that.

And from next year, we’ll take a giant leap forward.

Yes, a new National Living Wage.

Over £9 an hour by the end of the decade.

An £80-a-week pay rise for the lowest paid.

Work paying for millions of people.

So let the message go out: if you work hard, want to get on, want more money at the end of the month…

...the party for you is right here in this hall.

But being out of work is only one of the causes we must tackle.

Children in care are today almost guaranteed to live in poverty.

84 per cent leave school without five good GCSEs.

70 per cent of prostitutes were once in care.

And tragically, care leavers are four times more likely to commit suicide than anyone else.

These children are in our care; we, the state, are their parents – and what are we setting them up for...

…the dole, the streets, an early grave?

I tell you: this shames our country and we will put it right.

Just as we said to failing schools, “do a better job with our children or we will send new leaders in”, so we will say to poorly performing social services, “improve or be taken over”.

Just as we got the best graduates teaching at our most difficult schools, let’s get our brightest and best to the frontline of social work.

But we must also stop children needing to be in care at all.

When we came to office, the adoption rate in our country was frankly a scandal.

It has gone up. Our Adoption Bill will help it increase still further.

But there’s so much more to do.

So let us in this hall say to all those children desperate for a family, and all those families yearning for a child:

We, the Conservatives, we are the ones who will bring you together.

There’s another service run by the state that all too often fails and entrenches poverty.


Now I believe if you’ve committed a crime, punishment must follow.

And when it’s serious enough, that punishment must mean prison.

Let’s not forget, since we came to office, crime is down by a quarter.

But the system is still not working.

Half of criminals offend within a year of being released.

Nearly half go into prison with no qualifications; many come out with none either.

And all the problems that may have led them to that life – drug addiction, mental health problems, childhood abuse – remain unchanged.

We have got to get away from the sterile lock-em-up or let-em-out debate, and get smart about this.

When prisoners are in jail, we have their full attention for months at a time – so let’s treat their problems, educate them, put them to work.

When we restrict someone’s freedom outside prison, we can make sure they’re working and paying taxes, rather than spending £30,000 a year keeping them in a cell – so where it makes sense, let’s use electronic tags to help keep us safe and help people go clean.

And when our prisons are relics from the time of Dickens – it’s time to sell them off and build new ones that actually work.

This is going to be a big area of social reform in the next five years. And I have just the man for the job.

The man who takes on every vested interest and gives everyone a chance…

…the man who began the great transformation of our education system and is now going to do the same for prisons…

…yes, the great Conservative reformer, Michael Gove.

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