Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Clegg unveils 'fairness premium'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has hailed a 'fairness premium' designed to help children from poorer families

Children "must not pay the price for this generation's mistakes", Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has declared as he laid out plans for a £7 billion "fairness premium" to help the poorest youngsters.

The new "fairness premium" will help the poorest youngsters from the ages of two to 20, and includes proposals for a "pupil premium", a key pledge of the Lib Dems' election manifesto that made its way into the coalition agreement.

Mr Clegg's announcement comes at a time when he is under severe pressure from within his own party, and the continuing possibility of a backbench revolt over a U-turn on a party election pledge not to raise university tuition fees.

Speaking at a junior school in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Mr Clegg said that tackling the deficit will mean "wiping the slate clean" for the next generation.

The UK is going to spend £43 billion on debt interest this year, around £830 million per week. This is enough to build a new primary school every hour, buy a new Chinook helicopter every day, triple the numbers of doctors in hospitals, or spend twice as much on education.

He argued that next week's spending review will provide an opportunity to boost fairness and the life chances for the poorest.

"I can announce today that in the Spending Review we will provide extra funds - a total of over £7 billion over the spending review period - for a "fairness premium", stretching from the age of two to the age of 20: from a child's first shoes to a young adult's first suit. This is more than £7 billion spent on giving the poorest children a better start in life," he said.

The package will include 15 hours a week of free nursery education for the poorest two-year-olds, at a cost of £300 million a year by 2014/15, and a "pupil premium" with funds handed to schools to help pupils eligible for Free School Meals - a measure of poverty, which will eventually be worth £2.5 billion per year. A "student premium" to help the poorest teenagers to go to university will also be set up, at a cost of at least £150 million per year by the end of the spending review period.

Mr Clegg said: "Tackling the deficit means wiping the slate clean for the next generation. It means ensuring that our children do not pay the price for this generation's mistakes. And their future must be at the heart of every decision we take along the way."

He added: "It is simply not acceptable that the circumstances of a child's birth can become a life sentence of disadvantage."

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