Politicians urged to back pledges in Manifesto for Children

The Children’s Commissioner for England has published A Manifesto for Children calling on Britain’s political parties to include a six-point plan in their election manifestos to transform the life chances for disadvantaged children and to help all of England’s 12 million children to thrive.

Anne Longfield’s report outlines some of the key issues that children have told the Children’s Commissioner’s Office are affecting their lives, and reflects many of the subjects the Children’s Commissioner has been shining a light on in recent years. This includes children growing up in chaotic families, inadequate children’s mental health services, children’s safety and children living in poor quality housing such as B&Bs, converted office blocks or shipping containers.

The Children’s Commissioner’s manifesto focuses on six key themes: supporting stronger families, providing decent places for children to live, helping children to have healthy minds, keeping children active, providing SEND support for those who need it, and creating safer streets and play areas.

The six pledges the Children’s Commissioner wants to see the political parties include in their election manifestos are: expanding the Troubled Families Programme or an equivalent system of family support; implementing a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service counsellor in every school; adequate funding for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, including pre-statutory support; opening schools at evenings, weekends and holidays; police officers and youth workers in schools; and establishing a cabinet committee for children.

Longfield said: “The building blocks of a good childhood haven’t changed – secure relationships, a decent home and inspiring schools. I want politicians to think seriously about whether they are truly prioritising these things for children. I’ve heard more national political conversation about HS2, water nationalisation and tax cuts – and of course Brexit – than I have about children.

“Children do not have a vote. Unless political parties choose to listen to them, they do not have a voice. I am the eyes and ears of children in the Whitehall system and I see far, far too often the interests of children being subjugated to the interests of others – of business, or of bureaucracies, or of adults who do have votes and whose views are therefore counted.

“We should be ashamed that there are literally millions of kids in England not having the childhood we in a decent society would want them to have. Yet none of this is inevitable: we get the society we choose. The right help at the right time pays dividends – to the children, to society and the public purse, now and in the future. I want England to be a great place for all children to grow up. This manifesto sets out a vision for a more child, and family- focused society. It demands that all political parties take action in their manifestos to improve the lives of kids.”

Judith Blake, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “All councils want children to get the best start and opportunities in life. The Spending Round delivered a £3.5 billion funding package for councils next year which will help them as they strive to support our most vulnerable young people. Funding pressures have forced many to cut or end early intervention services which can prevent problems, for example relating to children’s mental health or involvement in crime, before they escalate. It therefore remains vital that services supporting young people, children and families are fully funded.

“We have worked hard to demonstrate the unprecedented demand councils face supporting children with special needs, so we are pleased the government is listening and has provided £700 million for these services next year. We look forward to the review into SEND services and hope that this will lead to increased and sustained funding for this area.”

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