As you’ve probably noticed, there’s a general election this month, and it’s more than likely that the needs of children and young people won’t be front and centre during the campaign. But what should be being talked about? We asked some youth and children’s workers what should be on the top of the new government’s agenda…
The new Prime Minister needs to ask: what is the world going to look like in 30 years and how are we preparing young people for that future? With educational cuts in full swing, what are we really doing to prepare them for what lies ahead?
Jack Regan, youth officer for Arundel and Brighton
We are looking to our government to keep two promises: firstly to give 0.7 per cent of national income as aid and secondly to keep the promise made in Paris to cut greenhouse gas emissions faster. These issues affect children and young people living in the world’s poorest places and a young generation in the UK care about that.
Kiera Phyro, head of Tearfund’s youth and emerging generation team
Kids want something to believe in. They are fed up with greed and unconvinced by the benefits of materialism. They want politicians to help construct a hopeful meta-narrative; obviously the church has a key role to play but given that 95 per cent of young people are not in church, politicians must rise to the challenge. They want a vision not a soundbite.
Tim Hastie Smith, national director of Scripture Union
Conflict between mums and dads and family breakdown are increasingly recognised as contributing to poor mental health in children. Prevention is always better than cure and when parents are struggling in their relationships it’s vital that they can get effective help quickly. Children’s mental health services need to support the whole family.
Katharine Hill, Care for the Family’s UK director
We need policy around children and their education to be based on evidence and experts and not ‘common sense’. There is so much evidence that children need to be tested less, taught less and given far more time to play but this is ignored in favour of an increasing desire to return schools to the past with a focus on things like handwriting.
Sam Donoghue, head of children’s and youth ministry support, Diocese of London
We need mental health to be a high priority of our government. More and more of our children and young people are growing up with stress and anxiety as the norm. Just as we teach that physical health and hygiene are important from a young age, we need to teach them the skills to make sure they know that emotions are healthy and who to turn to when things aren’t going well. It’s time for us to start working on promotion rather than prevention or looking for a cure once it’s already gone dramatically wrong.
Sasha Austin-Seade, wellbeing developmental lead at Phase Hitchin
The next government has an opportunity to turn up the volume of hope for girls in a number of ways including publishing a timetable to ratify the Istanbul Convention (IC). One in four women in England and Wales experience domestic violence and one in four children have been exposed to domestic abuse. The IC sets minimum standards for governments to meet when tackling violence against women. By ratifying it, the UK will have to take necessary steps to prevent violence, protecting women and prosecuting perpetrators.
Claire Rush, vice-president of Girls Brigade International
Funding for voluntary and faith-based organisations has to be a priority. With the closure of nearly all statutory provision and the decline in grant-making bodies, often voluntary and faith-based organisations offer the only provision around. There needs to be the introduction of new funding sources to allow much of the good youth and children’s work that currently exists to continue.
Jimmy Dale, national youth evangelism officer, Church of England
Children’s mental health is at risk because of problem debt. Our research found that children living in families struggling with debt are five times more likely to be unhappy. There is currently no statutory scheme to support people in temporary financial difficulty who are trying to repay their debts. We would recommend introducing a breathing space scheme, giving families time and space to repay their debts.
Esther Elliott, church engagement coordinator, The Children’s Society
It is estimated that roughly 3.7 million children in the UK are living in poverty, with over half of these living in working families. The recent report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Hunger made strong recommendations to the government that meal provision for children during school holidays should become a statutory requirement for all local authorities. We would like to see the next government act on the recommendations in the report, allocating ten per cent of the sugar tax fund to local authorities specifically for the purpose of training and implementation of year-round support for families rather than restricting it to term time.
Rachel Warwick, founder and director of MakeLunch
We believe young people desire the next government to tackle issues of terrorism and poverty. In our recent research 54 per cent of young people stated war and terrorism and 41 per cent stated poverty as areas young people would most like to see positive change occur in. Neither answers are surprising when we are led to believe our very neighbours could be sleeper terrorists, and many are adversely impacted by the rise of poverty across the nation.
Neil O’Boyle, national director, British Youth For Christ
YMCA works in 740 communities across England and Wales so we know first-hand what young people are going through and what the next government needs to do to improve their lives and prospects. One thing is to ensure all students in school or college have access to careers information, advice and guidance delivered by professional specialists.
Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England and Wales
I would love to see funding for equipping parents to learn skills and grow in confidence to become available. If we could improve the emotional, physical and mental wellbeing of parents and children through healthy family life, our nation would significantly change.
Rachel Turner, children’s work expert and author
In the last two weeks, 11 young people were stabbed to death in our capital city. There are no youth clubs left in most areas. Serious youth violence should be on the agenda as should education. Protractors and compasses don’t prepare teenagers for real life.
Guvna B, rapper