Yet there are millions amongst us who risk being totally forgotten. Children won’t have a vote on the June 8th, so they will remain at the bottom of the priority list for the political parties as they make their pitch to the electorate.
But just because they can’t vote it’s vital that their needs are not forgotten. After all a country that works for everyone, as Theresa May has promised, includes children too.
So what are the main challenges that the parties need to address as they make their bid to form the next government?
NCB is part of the Children’s Inter Agency group which is the only forum working with children that brings together voluntary sector providers and the statutory sector, including local authorities, health and the police, to improve outcomes for children, particularly the most disadvantaged. It wants to see a country that works for every child including those with complex needs, who may be being bullied, are missing education, are in the care system or are disadvantaged in other ways.
Crucially this means a vision for the school system that isn’t just about the academically gifted but about giving all children the chance to fulfil their potential regardless of their ability. Linked to this, the next Government should send a clear message that school isn’t just about exam results – teachers play a key role in keeping children happy and healthy too.
Beyond the school gates there has to be just as much resource and attention given to the social care needs of children as the parties are pledging to give to the social care needs of older people. Demand for child protection services has increased almost 30% in the last five years, but council spending has fallen by over 20% over the same time. Nine out of ten children’s services directors who responded to a recent survey supported by NCB admitted that fulfilling their statutory duties to support vulnerable children is proving a challenge. The reality is that councils simply can’t afford to support every child in need.
The same challenge exists in the health service. The priority and focus remains on meeting the needs of an ageing population. NHS England has yet to even produce a clear strategy on children’s health which has now become the poor relation across the NHS. Even in mental health, which has been woefully underfunded for many years, adolescent mental health has particularly suffered and become acutely overstretched.
We know that resources are limited. But there is no doubt that across the board support for children is being withdrawn. Our analysis has found that children's centres, short breaks for disabled children, teenage pregnancy initiatives and youth work will be among services that will see their funding cut by nearly three-quarters in the decade up to 2020.
As the campaign unfolds it will be too easy for all candidates to ignore the children living in their constituencies. But just because they won’t be casting a vote come election day it doesn’t mean that they don’t have pressing needs which need to be met or that every child doesn’t have a right to a fair share of government spending.