New Year, new resolutions – same old problems

Go to the gym, eat more healthily, stop smoking. New Year’s resolutions that are bound to be forgotten by the second week of January. 

For some of the children and young people we work with, the New Year brings much more modest wishes:

  • To be loved 
  • To be safe 
  • To learn

This shouldn’t be too much to ask for. Yet in the UK in 2014 these wishes seem a remote possibility for many.

Here are five urgent wishes for 2014. These won’t resolve all the problems children and young people face. But they are a good starting point. Importantly they are all practical and achievable in 2014.

1. The 80 year old law on child neglect must be updated

Neglect is the most common form of child abuse, affecting as many as 1 in 10 children. Yet the law on child neglect is out of date. It does not cover emotional neglect and creates confusion which stops police officers and social workers from working together. The Government need to update the law on child neglect.

2. Young people across the UK must have the right to stay on in care until they are ready to leave

Most young people leave home at 24. Young people in foster care leave at around 17. Young people who stay with their foster carers longer are more likely to get qualifications and less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, use mental health services, be arrested or go to prison. In England, the Government has announced its intention to allow all children in foster care the right to stay on until they are 21. Action is urgently needed to extend this right to young people in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

3. Children’s centres must reach out to vulnerable children and their families

Children’s centres are an amazing resource, providing essential help for parents and their children up and down the country. But we don’t make the most of them. Not all children’s centres know about the vulnerable children living in their area. 70% of our centres are experiencing problems accessing this basic data. This needs to be sorted out by centres automatically being given local birth data so they can reach out and deliver early help to all those who need it.

4. The benefit cap must be child-proofed

In 2014, over 175,000 children are expected to be caught by the benefit cap. These children may face poverty, homelessness, overcrowding or having to move school as a result.  We are worried that unless different teams work together locally and nationally, very vulnerable children will fall through the cracks. We want the cap to be child-proofed so that children are not the losers in the roll out of this new policy.

5. Early help must be resourced

We need to shift resources to help children, young people and families as soon as problems emerge. As the next general election approaches we have the opportunity to regain the momentum for early intervention. We’re calling for a shift in resources for early help services, five year spending plans for childrens services and early intervention spending clearly identified in government accounts.

In 2014 we want to see happy and secure children who have loving relationships in their lives. If they, their families or their carers need extra help, then they should get that help as soon as they need it. And we want to see children who are free to learn from their mistakes and grow up at their own pace.

Surely this can’t be too much to ask for?

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