ACP Chair Heather Stewart attended the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC) on Monday 23 November. This APPGC provided an opportunity to meet with the Children’s Commissioners for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. Each commissioner gave a presentation on what he or she felt were their priorities for Children’s policy as well as discussing the challenges and opportunities that face them and services working for children. Their talks were followed by a brief Question and Answer session in which a group of young people from the National Children’s Bureau presented questions for the Commissioners.
Heather reports that it did seem that there was a lot of commonality in their presentations with a genuine child-centred set of beliefs and the following concerns were highlighted by them all:
- The growing inequalities in society
- The impact of increasing poverty on children and young people and the links to poor mental health and poor educational attainment
- The importance of involving young people in decision-making and ensuring their voices get heard; a commitment to reinstating youth assemblies
- The need for cross departmental working in government so that children are considered in all areas of policy
- Concerns about increasing mental health problems in children and a commitment to early intervention, followed by a commitment to increasing funding for CAMHS and ensuring a specialist workforce. They all welcomed the promise to increase funding but all noted that there had been no difference on the ground as yet, with a demoralised staff and ever increasing waiting lists.
- The importance of supporting the most vulnerable in society, highlighting children with disabilities and looked after and adopted children. It was also noted that 10% of refugees and migrants are unaccompanied children.
- A commitment to child protection. Children's Commissioner for England about to publish report on child sexual abuse, which is on our website, and a concern about protection of children in the digital age of social media, potential for cyber bullying and issues of safety
- A wish to challenge the stigmatisation of children.
Heather added: "I felt they were all very much in touch with the issues that face children today and which, we as child psychotherapists, are encountering in the workplace and in the therapy room."
Heather Stewart and Alison Roy, ACP Media and Comms lead, are due to meet the Children's Commissioner for England personally on 10 December. If you have any questions you would like them to ask or concerns to raise, then please email the ACP office.