Mentoring at the heart of David Cameron's 'all-out assault on poverty'


David Cameron has launched an "all-out assault on poverty" with a sweeping package of social reforms including measures to boost mentoring, improve mental health services and flatten "sink estates".

The Prime Minister used a keynote speech to launch a major campaign to encourage high-flying mentors to pass on their experiences to youngsters at risk of dropping out of school.

He also defended controversial education reforms and outlined proposals to encourage saving as part of his plan to "rescue a generation from poverty".

Mr Cameron praised ambitious "Tiger Mothers" who pushed their children to succeed.

It was "the precise opposite of the 'all must have prizes' culture", he said, insisting that "children thrive on high expectation".

Giving details of the boost for mentoring, Mr Cameron said CapGemini UK's chairwoman Christine Hodgson and the Careers and Enterprise Service would lead a new campaign to encourage role models to share their experiences.

In a keynote speech in Islington, north London he said around 25,000 pupils about to begin GCSEs risked under-achieving or dropping out and claimed many of these would benefit from a mentor's guidance.

He said: "Many people can look back at their younger selves and point to someone - perhaps a parent or teacher, a sports coach, or their first boss - and say 'that's the person who found my passion. They're the ones who made the difference'.

"But if you haven't ever had someone in your life who really believes in you - who sees your potential and helps bring it to the fore - the sands of time can drain away, and your talents can remain hidden."

Some £70m will be targeted on the issue by 2020, primarily to the Careers and Enterprise Company which will lead the effort to recruit mentors for young teenagers.

Mr Cameron also used his speech to promise action to tackle the "stigma" of addiction and mental health problems, and to signal plans to tear down "brutal" housing estates which had become hotbeds of crime.