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.”
* The letter is signed by over 142+ organisation including leading children’s charities, education unions, professional associations and grassroots organisations.