Politics news: Mixed response to Blair's social exclusion agenda

Nathalie Thomas

Charities have responded with caution to the Government's social exclusion agenda.

The agenda, which was introduced by the Prime Minister last week and set out in detail in the Social Exclusion Action Plan on Monday, prioritises children, families with complex problems, teenage pregnancies and mental health patients (Third Sector, 6 September).

Charities have welcomed the agenda's focus on early intervention, but they have also warned that services should not be designed to control or stigmatise users. They called on the Government to fulfil its promise of using the expertise and creativity of the voluntary sector in reaching out to the socially excluded.

"We would urge the Government to give priority to inclusive, voluntary, community-based support that avoids stigmatising children," said Lord Richard Best, director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

One charity warned the Government it would fail if it did not back up its pledges with more funding. "None of this will happen without more dedicated resources for children and families and a willingness by all authorities to make this a priority," said Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children.

"Building more resources into any new initiative is key. We call on the Government to make this central to its next spending review."

According to Adam Sampson, director of Shelter, the agenda overlooks one of the most basic issues in helping socially excluded families - ensuring that every child has a safe home.

"The Government must commit to building more social rented homes if it seriously wants to offer these children the chance of a brighter future," he said.

The Conservative Party, whose own Social Justice Commission is due to report its results early next year, pointed out that Monday's Social Exclusion Action Plan was the ninth in nine years.

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