Labour manifesto pledges child mental health spending boost and compulsory sex education

Joe Lepper
Monday, April 13, 2015

Improved mental health support, compulsory sex education and a lowering of the voting age to 16 are among pledges for children and young people unveiled by the Labour Party in its election manifesto.

Labour leader Ed Miliband launched the party's general election manifesto at an event in Manchester today
Labour leader Ed Miliband launched the party's general election manifesto at an event in Manchester today

A key pledge in the Labour manifesto, launched today, is to tackle mental health problems among children and young people.

It specifically outlines plans to increase the proportion of the mental health budget spent on children – currently around seven per cent – and invest in training for teachers to help them better identify pupils with mental health problems and signpost support.

All children with a mental health issue should also be able to access school-based counselling, the manifesto adds.

Sex and relationship education (SRE) will also be made compulsory in schools. The manifesto adds: “We will encourage schools to embed character education across the curriculum, working with schools to stop the blight of homophobic bullying.”

Compulsory SRE was a key recommendation of the Commons education select committee inquiry earlier this year.

The manifesto also confirms the party's backing to reduce the voting age to 16 by May 2016. To support the move to lowering the voting age the manifesto pledges to “explore the scope” for an automatic system of registration.

In addition, the party has pledged to continue to support the Step Up To Serve campaign, that aims to get more than half of young people involved in social action by 2020, and backs the coalition government’s youth volunteering initiative, the National Citizen Service.

There is also a pledge to ensure all school pupils take part in a minimum of two hours of organised sport a week.

And Labour will offer parents a legal guarantee of access to childcare from 8am to 6pm through primary schools.

Another priority is to better tackle domestic violence, with a commitment to introducing a Violence against Women and Girls Bill and the appointment of a commissioner to oversee domestic and sexual violence standards. Women’s refuges and rape crisis centres will also be provided with “more stable central funding”.

The manifesto reiterates previous promises made in the run up to the general election around boosting the role of children’s centres in families’ lives, introducing school standards directors, improving vocational training and support for kinship carers

Cathy Ashley, chief executive of Family Rights Group, said: “We welcome the commitment from the Labour party to provide greater support and recognition to kinship carers, including grandparents and siblings raising family members who have suffered tragedy or trauma and would otherwise be in the care system. For too long these carers have been overlooked and undervalued.”

Harvey Gallagher, chief executive of the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers, welcomed the manifestos emphasis on early years and early intervention but was concerned there was no mention of looked-after children.

He said: "There will continue to be children and young people coming into care, as well as those already in care, for whom this will have little impact. The manifesto gives greater commitment to mental health support for children, but children in care need a guarantee of these services throughout childhood and early adulthood that is not there in the manifesto."

Its education manifesto, launched last week, guarantees teenagers face-to-face individual careers advice and the reinstatement of compulsory work experience for 14- to 16-year-olds.

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