“Base police officers in schools, urges children's commissioner ”

By Dan Parton

| 09 September 2019

Police officers and youth workers should be based in schools to help protect pupils from violence, according to the children's commissioner for England.

The call is one of six core demands in the report Guess How Much We Love You - a Manifesto for Children - which commissioner Anne Longfield is urging political parties to include in their own upcoming general election manifestos.

It follows a recent recommendation of the cross-party home affairs committee, to respond to the "social emergency" caused by rising levels of youth violence, by basing police in schools.

Longfield is also calling for any incoming government to extend the Troubled Families Programme or an equivalent system of family support.

Last week's short term spending round confirmed the programme would be extended for a year to April 2021, but gave no figures.

The other strands of Longfield's manifesto template are calls for the next government to place a child and adolescent mental health counsellor in every school; adequately fund special educational needs and disabilities including pre-statutory support; open schools during evenings, weekends and holidays, providing "high quality youth support", and establish a cabinet committee for children.

Longfield's report states that "in more and more areas of the country, gangs operate openly in streets and parks, and groom increasingly younger children". 

It adds: "I've been shocked by how frightened children routinely say they are today. 

"They tell me about being chased in the streets, videoed by strangers, frightened to walk to school, avoiding being out after dark. 

"Many of the people and places that used to be available to kids in the past, the fabric of a child's society - from someone to greet you when you got home from school, to welcoming parks and clubs - no longer exist. We must fix this."

Longfield also questions the priorities of government. "The building blocks of a good childhood haven't changed - secure relationships, a decent home and inspiring schools," she states.

"I want politicians to think seriously about whether they are truly prioritising these things for children. I've heard more national political conversation about HS2, water nationalisation and tax cuts - and of course Brexit - than I have about children."

Meanwhile, Carolyne Willow, director of children's rights organisation Article 39, welcomed the manifesto, but said it was "hugely disappointing" that it made no reference to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets out the legislative and cultural changes required for every child to be safe, happy, respected and able to thrive.

"If you are looking to fight poverty, to build respectful education, child protection and care systems, to keep children out of the criminal justice system and to ensure positive family support and excellent healthcare, this is the treaty to achieve that," she said.

"We are celebrating 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Children Act 1989, so this would have been an opportune moment for the Children's Commissioner to implore politicians to honour their legal obligations to children." 

Willow added that Labour and Liberal Democrats have previously pledged to make the convention part of UK law, which showed "serious political commitment to children".

She said she believed that the "language of rights doesn't always appeal to adults in positions of power", but insisted that it "deeply resonates with children who time and time again report feeling unheard, unrecognised and unsupported".