Three: Young children

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This chapter examines UK government policy towards young children in the aftermath of the 2007 financial crisis. It covers both the 2007-2010 Labour administration under Gordon Brown and the Coalition Government 2010-2015. It explores how policy decisions and spending cuts affected services for children under five during this period, and presents some preliminary outcome indicators, including measures of poverty, low birthweight and early child development. The chapter highlights a clear shift in policy direction when the Coalition Government took office, with families with young children shouldering a ‘double burden’ under austerity measures from 2010 onwards. Benefit reductions hit families with young children harder than any other group, while services for this group were heavily squeezed by cuts in local authority funding settlements. Child poverty started rising for families with a baby from 2010/11, and there were signs that previous progress in narrowing socio-economic gaps in early child health and cognitive development may have stalled.

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