When the Labour government took office in 1997, it had inherited levels of poverty and inequality unprecedented in post-war history. More than one in four UK children lived in poverty compared to one in eight when Labour left office in 1979. Poverty among pensioners was at 21 per cent and income inequality had widened sharply. To counter poverty and inequality, the new government implemented broad and ambitious social policy programmes. It focused its attention on a wide range of social ills such as child poverty, neighbourhood deprivation, worklessness, and inequalities in health and educational attainment. In sum, the New Labour government toiled for a more equal society. This introductory chapter discusses the scale of the inequality problem in the UK. It also discusses the strategies and approaches employed by the government to counter these problems. It assesses the impact of the policies by the government such as Opportunity for All which aimed to eradicate poverty and social exclusion.
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