Queen’s Speech failed most vulnerable families

Mark Russell
Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Children and young people in the UK are growing up in some of the hardest times in recent history, where inflation rates are at a 40-year high and the cost of living crisis is hitting every household. Low-income families, who were already struggling, are faring the worst.

Mark Russell, chief executive, The Children’s Society
Mark Russell, chief executive, The Children’s Society

The Queen’s Speech was a chance to redress the balance and announce useful measures that would tackle the immediate challenge. While there was an acknowledgement of it, the government’s focus was on economic recovery and getting people into work, rather than strengthening the social security safety net that families desperately need.

We know that 75 per cent of children in poverty have at least one parent or guardian in work, so what is being done to strengthen social security safety nets and tackle in-work poverty, as well as help for non-working families? There was a lack of ambitious, targeted strategies to specifically tackle child poverty or help families with children. Extending free school meals to all children whose families receive universal credit or increasing child benefit would have made a significant difference to so many families.

The Online Safety Bill was announced, which will tackle online fraud and scams, but also illegal content including child sexual exploitation. It presents a welcome opportunity to bring our laws up to date. However, the government must strengthen the bill to offer better protection for children from grooming for sexual as well as criminal exploitation and stop these criminals going unchecked online.

The Victims Bill is the government’s chance to ensure all child victims of crime, including those who are criminally exploited, are treated as victims, not criminals. Child victims of crime need to be recognised separately as they have additional needs and require specialist support, due to several reasons including their developmental needs and their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation.

We want to see the government use the bill to enshrine in law the rights of child victims of abuse and exploitation, and ensure they have the support to recover from the terrible trauma they experience.

With the Schools Bill introducing education reforms, including a compulsory register for truancy, we hope it looks at the reasons why children are absent from school, and provides proper investment into services that support them.

Our Good Childhood Report tells us that children’s wellbeing has been in decline for a decade, and young people are more unhappy with school than many other aspects of their lives. It is crucial that children’s wellbeing is taken seriously and we look forward to seeing how the Mental Health Act’s reforms will also affect children and young people.

We know there is still a long way to go with services that support children – they deserve a much better deal.

  • Mark Russell, chief executive, The Children’s Society

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