Scant Evidence to Support Cash for Social Change

Examples from middle and low income countries may not apply in richer countries

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- There is little evidence that child development grants tied to uptake of services aimed at improving social mobility currently undergoing pilot studies in the United Kingdom are workable, according to an article published online Aug. 25 in BMJ.

Ian Forde, of University College London, and Dagmar Zeuner, M.D., of Hammersmith and Fulham NHS and Council in London, review the results of the cash transfer schemes widely used in Latin America on which the British scheme is modeled to examine whether it can improve parenting and to assess how the scheme should be targeted.

While similar schemes in Latin American countries have focused on tangible outcomes such as vaccination rates and receipt of health advice, the aim of the British scheme -- promoting social mobility -- is more complex, the researchers note. Unlike the schemes in Mexico and Colombia, which amount to ongoing funding through a child's school years equivalent to approximately 20 percent of household income, the U.K. grant of £200 (US$335) is tiny compared to the £1,200 monthly income of the country's lowest income quintile, the investigators state.

"The evidence that child development grants will contribute to social mobility is currently limited," the authors write. "Given the health select committee's recent damning criticism of the persistent lack of evaluation of new initiatives to tackle inequalities, child development grants must be accompanied by a strategy for robust evaluation."

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