On the day of the next Election Debate, 140+ children’s organisations* are calling on political leaders to set out their solutions to the social problems that can leave millions of children ‘scarred for life’, including child poverty, mental health, domestic abuse and serious youth violence.
In an open letter** to all political parties, organisations including the National Children’s Bureau, NSPCC, Barnardo’s, Action For Children and The Children’s Society, say children are being ‘crowded out’ of the discussion of the nation’s future, leaving their needs overlooked and their voices unheard.
As party leaders set out their visions for the future, the letter urges them to put children at the heart of this election, and take action to prioritise them in the next Parliament.
There are nearly 14 million children living in the UK, of whom over four million live in poverty. A child is taken into care every 15 minutes and one in eight 5 to 19-year-olds have at least one mental health condition. The charities say the services vulnerable children such as these rely on are facing a ‘funding crisis’ as the number needing help continues to rise. The Children’s Commissioner for England estimates it will require £10bn of investment to turn this situation around and support our children to thrive.
The organisations insist children should be put at the front of the queue for increased funding. The letter calls on political parties to focus on preventing crises in the first place by providing early support for children and families, to prevent their problems spiralling out of control and requiring more expensive services later.
On the day of the second televised Election Debate, children and young people are raising their voices along with children’s charities, using the hashtag #IfIWerePM to share their priorities for Government.
Geraint (aged 18), a member of the National Children’s Bureau’s Young NCB, said:
“I like the idea of votes at 16, but there needs to be more education about politics for young people (and everyone else!). We need to learn about the parties, how to vote, and the issues. If I were prime minster, I would push for greater political education.”
Bilkis (aged 20), a young trustee for The Children’s Society said:
“If we start to put money towards a child’s early development and learning, as well as funding for youth engagement services and clubs – I believe there will be less gang related violence and anti-social behaviour in the community. Instead young people will be learning life skills, having fun and feel inspired to give back to the community.”
Gabby (aged 17), a young supporter of Action for Children, said:
“There needs to be more of a focus on the things that affect us like mental health. It seems like Brexit is all that is talked about now and we weren’t allowed to vote on that even though it’s going to massively affect us. Our views aren’t taken into account at all. A lot of politicians don’t understand the pressure we face and think we should just get on with it.”
Louise (aged 17), a member of Barnardo’s South East and Anglia Region Our Voice Youth Forum, said:
“I’m really passionate about the mental health care in this country and how restrictive it is. It needs improving so that early intervention can happen. I understand from a different perspective because I’ve been one of those individuals in care of CAMHS, which finishes when you are 18. That’s a major crisis point for lots of individuals like me.”
For further information contact:
- The letter is signed by over 142+ organisation including leading children’s charities, education unions, professional associations and grassroots organisations.
Action for Children
National Children’s Bureau
The Children’s Society
Achievement for All
Alström Syndrome UK
Ambitious about Autism
Association of Child Protection Professionals
Association of Play Industries
Association of School and College Leaders
ATD Fourth World
Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile
Batten Disease Family Association
Bishop of Durham
British Academy of Childhood Disability
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
British Dyslexia Association
British Youth Council
Centre for Mental Health
Centre for Research in Early Childhood
Cerebral Palsy Sport
Chailey Heritage Foundation
Child Poverty Action Group
Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition
Children North East
Children’s Rights Alliance for England
Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies
Dorset Children’s Foundation
Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network
Escape Intervention Services
Greater Manchester Poverty Action
H is for Harry
Healthy Teen Minds
Home for Good
Include Me TOO
Independent Children’s Homes Association
Institute of Health Visiting
Just For Kids Law
Keeping Early Years Unique
Leap Confronting Conflict
Mental Health First Aid England
Montessori St. Nicholas Charity
National Association for Youth Justice
National Association of Headteachers
National Association of Independent Schools & Non-Maintained Special Schools
National Development Team for Inclusion
National Education Union
National Family Mediation
National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum
National Network of Parent Carer Forums
National Youth Advocacy Service
Partnership for Children
Partnership for Young London
Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity
Resources for Autism
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists
Scottish Out of School Care Network
SEFDEY Professional Association
Social Workers Union
Social Workers Without Borders
Sports and PE Association
St Vincent’s Family Project
Standing Committee for Youth Justice
Step Up To Serve
Team Mental Health
The ADD-vance ADHD and Autism Trust
The Association of Child Psychotherapists
The Care Experienced Conference
The Care Leavers Association
The Centre for Outcomes of Care
The Childhood Trust
The Children’s Sleep Charity
The Enthusiasm Trust
The Equality Trust
The Fostering Network
The Marine Society and Sea Cadets
The Matthew Elvidge Trust
The Mulberry Bush
The National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome-UK
The Reach Foundation
The Together Trust
Thomas Pocklington Trust
Together for Short Lives
Triple P UK
Your Life Your Story
Youth Practitioners’ Association
Youth Sport Trust
** The open letter addressed to all leading political parties – Embargoed until 00:01 on Friday 29th November – is pasted below:
Dear [PARTY LEADERS]
As leaders of charities and organisations working with vulnerable children across the UK, we ask that you address the needs of our youngest citizens and set out how you will prioritise them in the next Parliament.
General elections are the moments when we debate and decide the nation’s future and there is no greater investment that we, as a society, and you, as politicians, can make for our future prosperity than ensuring every child gets the best start in life. Strengthening childhoods builds a healthier society and a stronger economy.
There are almost 14 million children in the UK but their voices are missing from the national conversation and far too little attention has been paid to their needs, particularly those of the most vulnerable. Instead, the debate on Brexit means the issues affecting children are being crowded out of the national debate.
We are asking each of you to put children at the heart of this election. We invite you to listen directly to the voices of children and commit to three actions to improve their outcomes:
Set out your party’s priorities for vulnerable children. The number of children in the UK living in poverty has risen to 4.1 million. A child goes into care every 15 minutes. One in eight 5 to 19 year olds have at least one mental health condition. Your parties must set out how they will protect children from these and other challenges like online harm, serious youth violence and the criminal exploitation of children. These are urgent problems that can leave children scarred for a lifetime, with consequences for the whole of society.
Put children at the front of the queue for investment. We know from our frontline experience that support from services and professionals can be crucial in helping children and families thrive, such as help for new parents to bond with their babies; support for pupils at risk of school exclusion; and child protection teams who intervene when children are in danger.
However, these services are increasingly facing a funding crisis, as the number of children needing support is continuing to rise – there has been a 17% increase in the number of children in care since 2010 – and the amount of money the Government provides to spend on children’s services has fallen. The Local Government Association estimates that the funding gap for children’s services will be £3.1 bn by 2024 and England’s Children’s Commissioner says £10bn is needed to ensure all disadvantaged children get a chance to thrive.
- Re-balance spending. We’re spending more on the consequences of children ending up in crisis and less and less on preventing crisis in the first place. In the past decade, spending on early intervention services fell by 49% while spending on statutory, late intervention services rose by 12%.
Early help services like children’s centres are missing out on funding even though they play a crucial role in identifying children with developmental problems or families struggling at home. The next Government should ensure local authorities have the resources to run early intervention programmes which have been proven to work.
Only through an honest debate about how we respond to these challenges, and the urgency with which we do it, can this election help set us on a better path for all children.
This could be the most important General Election in a generation and the children we work with don’t have a vote – so they must have a voice.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Julie Bentley, Action for Children
Javed Khan, Barnardo’s
Anna Feuchtwang, National Children’s Bureau
Peter Wanless, NSPCC
Mark Russell, The Children’s Society
Etc. +137 other organisations (see list in press release above)
About the National Children’s Bureau
For more than 50 years, the National Children’s Bureau has worked to champion the rights of children and young people in the UK. We interrogate policy and uncover evidence to shape future legislation and develop more effective ways of supporting children and families. As a leading children’s charity, we take the voices of children to the heart of Government, bringing people and organisations together to drive change in society and deliver a better childhood for the UK. We are united for a better childhood.
For more information visit www.ncb.org.uk
Last year around 300,000 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 1,000 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes.
Barnardo’s works to change the lives of vulnerable children in the UK and every year it helps thousands of families to build a better future.
Visit www.barnardos.org.uk to find out how to get involved. Registered charity No. 216250 and SC037605.
About Action for Children
Action for Children protects and supports vulnerable children and young people by providing practical and emotional care and support, ensuring their voices are heard and campaigning to bring lasting improvements to their lives. With 476 services in communities across the country, the charity helps more than 387,000 children, teenagers, parents and carers a year. actionforchildren.org.uk
About The Children’s Society
The Children’s Society is a national charity that helps the most vulnerable children and young people in Britain today. We run services and campaigns to make children’s lives better and change the systems that are placing them in danger. We listen. We support. We act. Together with our supporters we’re improving the lives of children today and building hope for a better future.
The NSPCC is the leading children’s charity fighting to end child abuse in the UK and Channel Islands. Using voluntary donations, which make up around 90 per cent of our funding, we help children who’ve been abused to rebuild their lives, we protect children at risk, and we find the best ways of preventing child abuse from ever happening. So when a child needs a helping hand, we’ll be there. When parents are finding it tough, we’ll help. When laws need to change, or governments need to do more, we won’t give up until things improve.
Our Childline service provides a safe, confidential place for children with no one else to turn to, whatever their worry, whenever they need help. Children can contact Childline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our free NSPCC Helpline provides adults with a place they can get advice and support, share their concerns about a child or get general information about child protection. Adults can contact the Helpline 365 days a year. www.nspcc.org.uk