Party leaders should debate with children and young people ahead of General Election

Lib Dems throw down the gauntlet to other parties at youth-led event in Parliament.

  • Munira Wilson MP tells children and young people that Lib Dem leader Ed Davey would be “delighted” to take part in an election debate with and about children and young people.
  • Commitments to listen to children are like “a broken record” without action, young people tell main parties.
  • At the event, NCB launched a new report setting out how we can improve policy and services by basing them on the views and experiences of children, young people and families.
  • The event was organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC). 
Participants at the APPGC event sitting in Attlee Suite as Baroness Tyler speaks

The upcoming election requires a leadership debate with a laser focus on children and young people, demanded Lib Dems at a youth-led event in Westminster on Tuesday, boldly challenging other parties to follow suit.

The remarks came at a meeting that empowered children and young people to voice their concerns, and question politicians on how they would respond if they were to form the next Government.

Nearly 40 young people and parents exchanged ideas with a panel representing all the main political parties: Tim Loughton (Conservatives), Ashley Dalton (Labour), Munira Wilson (Lib Dems) and Ria Patel (Green Party).

They were joined by Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, who highlighted findings from her Big Ambition survey showing that only one in five children and young people feels heard by those who run the country. But this doesn’t mean that children are cynical, Dame Rachel clarified: “This generation knows the power of politicians, and they want to be more involved.”

Again and again, children and young people speaking at the event, chaired by Baroness Tyler, who is also APPGC’s co-chair, expressed frustration at not being involved in decision-making. “Raising the importance of youth voice has become a broken record” when it’s not followed up with action, said one young person.

Over 150 attendees, including from other leading children’s charities, listened as children and young people shared their experiences of children’s social care, special educational needs and disabilities, mental health, and the importance of their voices being taken into account.

Many of the topics discussed are stubborn issues that we seem unable to resolve. Tim Loughton noted that challenges in children’s social care have been the subject of several major reviews spanning more than a decade.

The young speakers shared “poignant, moving and courageous” personal experiences and stories - with Baroness Tyler welcoming their bravery in her concluding remarks -underscoring decision-makers’ failure to act to improve existing policy and services. Speaking of children in care being placed far from their homes, schools and networks of support, one young person asked: “How long is it for things to change? How much more instability is it going to take?”

Anna Feuchtwang, CEO of the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), which coordinated the event on behalf of the APPGC, urged political parties to meaningfully engage with children and young people: “This is the time to work together across the generations and geographies to address some of the long-standing issues in this country.”

Party leaders were challenged to take part in a leadership debate featuring children and young people during the election campaign, with Munira Wilson from the Lib Dems saying her party’s leader would be “delighted” to take part. She added, “I find it terrifying standing in front of a group of children or young people, much more so than standing up in the House of Commons chamber, because they ask the most incisive questions and get to the heart of the matter.”

Other commitments came from the rest of the panel. Labour’s Ashley Dalton said she wanted to see the end of “siloed work within government departments” to improve the lives of children. The statement will resonate with the ongoing Children At The Table campaign, which asks that politicians across Government work together to improve the lives of babies, children and young people.

The Green Party said it would listen to children and young people who are experiencing a wide range of interlinked issues and take into account all the barriers they face. “It’s important all their needs are addressed”, said Ria Patel.

Supporting NCB’s joint Children At The Table campaign with four other leading children’s charities (Action for Children, Barnardo’s, NSPCC, The Children’s Society), children and young people left their handprints and personal messages to policymakers on a tablecloth, part of the campaign’s drive to harness their views and opinions.

To mark the event, NCB launched a new report on amplifying children’s voice, the first in a series of deep dives into key areas of policy and practice.

The report highlights NCB’s unique research, evidence and experience, and suggests ways to meaningfully include children and young people’s voices, insights and opinions in decision making.

The event ended with a warm tribute from Baroness Tyler to Tim Loughton, the former Children's Minister who has resolutely championed children’s rights during his long service as an MP in Parliament and co-chair of the APPG for Children. Tim will be standing down at the next general election.

Children in recent years have faced world events and challenges like no other before them but rather than becoming despondent or pessimistic, they are charged with energy and passion for making change. Yet – disappointingly – the results of The Big Ambition survey found only one in five feels listened to by the adults in power. All too often, children and young people feel their opinions are too easily ignored – they feel talked about, rather than to. That’s why alongside my young Ambassadors I am calling on politicians and policy makers as we face a general election to listen to children and act on what they are telling you.

Dame Rachel de Souza

Children's Commissioner

A baby held by her parents looks at the camera, at APPGC event


For further details and photos please contact [email protected] / 07721 097 031.

About the event

The panellists at the event in Portcullis House on Tuesday 14 May were:

  • Ashley Dalton MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities
  • Tim Loughton, Conservative MP and co-chair of the APPG for Children
  • Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education
  • Ria Patel, Green Party Equalities and Diversity Spokesperson.

The meeting was chaired by Baroness Claire Tyler, and speakers included over 15 young people, Dame Rachel de Souza – the Children’s Commissioner for England – and Anna Feuchtwang, CEO of the National Children’s Bureau.

The event was attended by over 150 people including parents, babies, children and young people, and representatives from across the children’s sector.

About the APPGC

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC) takes the voices of children and young people to the heart of Government. With the National Children’s Bureau acting as its Secretariat, NCB and the APPGC hold inquiries to raise awareness of issues putting children at risk and work across Government to influence the development of policy that brings about the best for babies, children and young people.

The APPGC is chaired by Tim Loughton MP and Baroness Tyler.

For more information, visit the APPGC’s website.

About the National Children’s Bureau

For more than 60 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. For more information visit