General election: Charities and youth organisations call on next government to 'put children first'

Fiona Simpson
Friday, November 29, 2019

More than 100 charities and youth organisations have rallied together to urge the next government to put children and young people at the forefront of their policies.

The group says listening to children's voices must be a priority. Picture: Barnardo's
The group says listening to children's voices must be a priority. Picture: Barnardo's

An open letter addressed to the main party leaders, signed by 147 organisations, calls for an end to child poverty, youth violence and the criminal exploitation.

Sent by the National Children’s Bureau on behalf of charity and youth work leaders, the letter reads: “These are urgent problems that can leave children scarred for a lifetime, with consequences for the whole of society.

"We ask that you address the needs of our youngest citizens and set out how you will prioritise them in the next parliament."

The group calls for investment in underfunded support services for both children and families, including those at risk of exclusion, and child protection teams.

"A child goes into care every 15 minutes. One in eight five- to 19-year-olds have at least one mental health condition," the organisations say.

The letter goes on to highlight a 17 per cent increase of children in care since 2010 and warns politicians that “the Local Government Association estimates that the funding gap for children’s services will be £3.1bn by 2024.”

“England’s children’s commissioner says £10bn is needed to ensure all disadvantaged children get a chance to thrive,” it adds.

The group says that “in the last decade, spending on early intervention services fell by 49 per cent while spending on statutory, late intervention services rose by 12 per cent”.

The Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, the British Youth Council and YoungMinds are among those to sign the letter ahead of the 12 December general election.

It reads: "Early help services like children’s centres are missing out on funding even though they play a crucial role in identifying children with developmental problems or families struggling at home. The next government should ensure local authorities have the resources to run early intervention programmes which have been proven to work."

The letter sets out four key priorities for the new government:

  • Listen to children's voices
  • Set out priorities for vulnerable children
  • Put children at the front of the investment queue
  • Spend more on preventing crises

The Labour Party has pledged to invest £1bn in a National Youth Service while the Liberal Democrats have promised a £500m ringfenced fund for youth services.

The Conservatives have promised to spend £500m on youth services over five years with a further £40m fund to support projects tackling youth violence.