16 Jul 2009

The Children’s Society today calls on all political parties to make a clear commitment to improving children’s lives in any new administration they form, in its Manifesto for a Good Childhood, published today (16 July).

The manifesto sets out a plan of action based on the findings of The Good Childhood Inquiry®, ‘A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age’, which stimulated a major national debate about how the nation treats its young people.

The manifesto identifies three key areas in which political leaders must act to improve childhood now and for future generations, and calls for every political party to write these pledges into their manifestos. The commitments are:

  • To put children’s well-being at the heart of UK public policy
  • To prioritise the interests of children who face the greatest disadvantage
  • To include children as valued citizens in reforms for democratic renewal

The Children’s Society believes that to achieve these goals all policies should be ‘childhood-proofed.’ This means the future Government must systematically assesses all its policies to work out whether they would improve children’s lives and if not, consider improvements. Where policies threaten children’s well-being the best interests of children must take precedence. For example, the current situation in which refugee children and their families suffer destitution or detention in the name of immigration control must be ended.

A key demand is that one Cabinet Minister should be given lead responsibility for all policies on children and young people. The Children’s Society believes this is essential to provide accountability and would help to guarantee that all children are subject to the same standards of service, care and protection. 

This is particularly vital for children who are currently outside the remit of the department with responsibility for children, such as refugee children and those for whom responsibility remains shared, such as children in trouble with the law.

The manifesto also insists that the most disadvantaged children should be given high priority in order to protect them from the worst effects of likely cuts in public spending. The Children’s Society wants the incoming Government to renew the commitment to end child poverty by 2020 and to improve services for the most vulnerable children, including runaways and children struggling with drug and alcohol problems.

The Manifesto for a Good Childhood also proposes action to tackle widespread negative attitudes towards children and young people. Children who submitted evidence to The Good Childhood Inquiry said such views profoundly affected them and alienated them from wider society. 

The Children’s Society believes negative stereotyping has undermined children’s equality and significance as members of society, and calls for society to listen more to children and recognise their right to be seen integral members of society. For example, outlawing negative age discrimination against children would send a strong and unequivocal message that their views are taken seriously.

Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“The ultimate test of a society is how it treats its children. Every Government has a duty to help all children enjoy a good childhood, and a particular responsibility to help the most disadvantaged children. We call on all political parties to put children’s well-being at the top of their agenda, and to ensure that children’s voices are heard in every political process.”