In a letter published in The Times yesterday, children’s sector leaders called on parties across the political spectrum to show ambition and present a coherent view to the electorate on what they would do to make the UK the best country in the world to begin life.
The group of organisations, which also includes the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Teenage Cancer Trust, Barnardo’s, Children’s Society, NCB, Brook and Netmums, write:
“For the last 20 years, the main focus of health and social care policy from successive governments has been on meeting the needs of an ageing population. From free TV licenses, bus passes and winter fuel allowances to the most recent guaranteed pension increase; these big ticket policies have made a welcome difference to many people towards the end of their lives. In comparison, policies to support children and young people have been relatively piecemeal.”
The letter acknowledges positive moves such as the recent Chief Medical Officer’s report, focusing on child health, ongoing governmental support of the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum, support for young people not in education or training and the attention given to early years.
But the group point to the fact that the UK still has one of the worst child mortality rates in Western Europe with up to 2,000 excess deaths a year; the number of children who are obese or who have mental health problems is growing; and the economic challenges faced by the country are particularly impacting younger people. And, they say, “when you get it right for children and young people you’re also getting it right for tomorrow’s adults.”
In a stark message to politicians, the letter states:
“For the first period since the Victorian age it is predicted that living standards for children will be worse than for their parents.”
Arguing for the benefits of early intervention, the authors are keen to stress it’s not about children and young people versus the elderly. Instead the please is for “equal focus [to be] given to the younger generation.”