Government blasted over childhood taskforce silence

The government has been accused of failing to be transparent over its Childhood and Families Taskforce established last year.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced the formation of the taskforce last June, saying its remit would be to improve the quality of life for children in the UK. In his speech he said that Prime Minister David Cameron would chair the taskforce, which would “identify and prioritise a small number of specific policy proposals that will make the biggest difference to children and families”.

Clegg listed flexible parental leave, increasing the number of men in childcare, greater support for disabled children, helping children through family breakdown and helping communities secure safe play spaces as areas the taskforce would consider.

But Labour MP Sharon Hodgson has blasted the government for refusing to give details of the taskforce’s work. She said: “Nick Clegg made a big fuss of the role of this new taskforce, yet we haven’t heard a thing about what they are working on or who is involved, and they are stonewalling my requests for information.

“This hardly fits with the new era of transparent government we were promised before the election.”

Last month in a parliamentary question Hodgson asked Clegg how many times the taskforce had met and who attended each meeting, to which he responded: “Work completed by the taskforce will be announced by government in the usual manner.”

This week a spokesman for the Cabinet Office said the agendas of the meetings will not be disclosed but matters discussed in the taskforce meetings will feed into relevant policies. He added that the taskforce meets regularly.

Adam Steiner, development officer for the Association of Play Industries, said: “Mr Clegg’s offer to give communities and local authorities more control over play spaces can only be a positive step. But even though he has acknowledged the lack of central funding for play, there is still no encouragement for local authorities to have their own play strategy in line with Department of Health targets to reduce obesity in the UK.

“The taskforce’s title, much like the big society and localism slogans appears to be just another exercise in newspeak, lacking both transparency and content.”