The Fabian Society, Narrowing the Gap: the final report of the Fabian Commission on Life Chances and Child Poverty,

The Fabian Society, London, 2006, 224pp, pbk, 0 7163 4102 6, £9.95 Order this book

The commission argues that the ‘life chances’ concept should be central to the politics of equality because it cuts through debates about equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome, it tests policy options for their ability to narrow inequalities, and it gives to government a rationale for eradicating child poverty. The report shows that in many cases the gap in life chances between disadvantaged and advantaged children has not narrowed since 1979 and that growing up in poverty affects life chances.

Recommendations include enhanced provision of childcare, maternity support, and paid parental leave. The commission wants to see schools admissions policies reviewed to reduce segregation by socio-economic background. As for income maintenance, the commission recommends a greater role for Child Benefit, a higher minimum wage, and a Royal Commission on the Distribution of Income and Wealth. Among the recommendations on child care the commission asks for public spending to be rebalanced away from subsidizing demand through tax credits and towards directly supporting the supply of high quality places.