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'Don't let up on child poverty'

TOO many officials and politicians in central and local government are scared of positive discrimination and pumping in resources to areas of need, Gordon Jeyes, director of children's services in Stirling, told the conference.

"The notion that we have made anything like the progress on child poverty that we should have, given the political and financial investment, is just not true," Mr Jeyes said. He paid credit to ministers for substantial investment but said there was still much to do.

Mr Jeyes was replying to Anne McGuire, Stirling MP and Scottish Office minister, who said that Labour had "started to turn the tanker around" on child care and the early years with increases in child benefit, the tax credit system for families and the New Deal for lone parents.

Mr Jeyes, whose authority was the first to integrate pre-school, out-of-school, education and social work, said there were still far too many boundaries between professions. Even in the Scottish Executive, priorities such as new community schools, the discipline task group and special educational needs fell outwith its children and families branch.

Jim Dalziel, headteacher of Eastbank Academy in Glasgow and head of the local learning community initiative involving primary and pre-five services, said that schools were best placed to co-ordinate services.

"Within an urban setting, the only remaining stable institution is the school. Everybody else seems to be transient or reorganising themselves, therefore the school has to open its doors to other professionals and work in partnership. I believe for the moment education has to take the lead in this. We are the facilitators, we are the ones with resources, the buildings and the pupils," Mr Dalziel said.

Eastbank has a health worker, youth worker, values and citizenship officer, a careers officer and a sports development officer who runs a community club in the evenings. Some 200 children turn up on a Friday night.

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