A New Government – ready for a new generation?

by Richard Newson May 19, 2015

As the dust settles following the General Election, Young NCB member Jack Welch, considers how young people will be affected.


The 2015 General Election is now something officially for the history books.

Months of coverage and debate led to, perhaps, the most unanticipated result for a generation.

Despite many first-time voters, myself included, being treated to the more boisterous nature of multi-party politics on TV schedules, a traditional majority government was returned to power.

Before any praise or concern at the result can be identified, the young 18-24 generation has brought a sufficient, but perhaps not yet solid, turnout of 58% to justify their mandate.

The impressive work of campaigns like Bite the Ballot and The League of Young Voters have ensured that the youth agenda is back from the brink after the ominous 44% polling rate in 2010. With 66% of the population voting overall though, it still leaves plenty to be desired in the overall public perception of politics.

Now with a new Conservative Government that can firmly deliver on their manifesto pledges, what can young people look forward for the next five years?

I recall some findings last year which referred to the youngest voting generation as ‘Generation Right’ – supportive of the social changes in the last decades, but more sceptical on the welfare state and advocating individualism, with little interest in party politics.

Some aspects of the Conservative programme for young people - expanding National Citizen Service, creating three million apprenticeships and lower taxes for lower wages – may correlate to support for the party.

However, for the many young people still unemployed in the UK, at 743,000 in the last set of official statistics, the outlook may not be looking so good.

Jobseeker’s Allowance for those aged 18-21 could be changed into a ‘Youth Allowance’. After six months, they may face the prospect of unpaid community work to earn their benefits. Housing benefit also faces a cap.

It concerns me that many of the long-term unemployed will be punished unduly in a highly competitive jobs market – to leave the most vulnerable feeling failures in life at an early stage does not bode well.

The impact on youth services too has been widely reported. Cuts to government spending  are set to continue by billions of pounds in the next year, yet local authorities have already had many difficult choices to make.. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, English councils reduced spending by 27% under  the Coalition Government. By 2014, councils had cut youth services on average by 36% in the preceding two years.

Stripping council services to a minimum has had disproportionate consequences to those in most need of help. The voluntary sector alone may not be able to bear the brunt of adopting services without adequate resources. Whoever shall have powers to decide on this agenda, they must think long and hard on the aftermath of their actions if young people are the losers. A ‘Youth Minister’, initially proposed by the British Youth Council, who would have capacity to represent our behalf, also has no sign of becoming a reality.

What I might describe could be unfairly pessimistic, with the new Parliament just finding its feet. However, there are many issues which young people have passionate views on – mental health and votes at 16 to name a couple. The new Government’s commitments to these issues needs to be demonstrated,  if they hope to reassure many young people they can have a bright future under the Conservatives. 

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Sex and relationships education in the election

by Administrator May 5, 2015
What do the manifestos say about sex and relationships education?, asks Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator, Sex Education Forum.
 
For 28 years, the Sex Education Forum has been campaigning for better sex and relationships education (SRE), so at General Election time it is usual for us to search through party manifestos in the hope of seeing commitments that take us closer to an entitlement to good quality SRE for every child and young person.
 
The good news is that this time round progress is tangible. Four out of five of the leading English parties’ manifestos mention SRE specifically. We are proud of the fact that SRE has been an election issue, reflecting the fact that it matters to very many people and that there is not satisfaction with the status quo.
 
In recent weeks, we have encouraged people to engage with all their MP candidates by asking what their thoughts are on providing SRE in all schools, training teachers in the subject and ensuring good communication between schools and parents about SRE provision. As a result, over 1,000 candidates have received email letters on the subject and voters have appreciated the personal and often rapid replies they have received.
 
Asking  MP candidates their views is one way of starting up new conversations about SRE – and this is important, because the more people talk about it and understand what good quality SRE is really all about, the more support there is for improving provision.
 
Although there is no mention of SRE or personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education in the Conservative party manifesto, we still have the sound ringing in our ears of Graham Stuart, Chair of the all-party Education Select Committee recommending that SRE becomes statutory in all primary and secondary schools in order to keep children safe. This recognition of the preventative and safety value of early SRE is echoed in the UKIP party manifesto, which supports teaching children that no one else is allowed to touch the private parts of their body, in order to help prevent and encourage reporting of abuse.
 
A commitment to make SRE compulsory is made in the Labour party manifesto and this is extended to broader PSHE in the Liberal Democrat party and Green party manifestos. Charlie Webster’s excellent interviews with party leaders for Cosmopolitan magazine provides an accessible summary of the party positions.
 
No matter what the outcome of the General Election, the Sex Education Forum and our members will continue to drive conversations about SRE. Evidence is always an important reference point – and we have just published an accessible and up-to-date summary of the research. This includes infographics from the Natsal-3 survey that paint a picture of a generation of pupils who want reliable information about sexual matters but are often failing to get that from school, parents or health professionals. The new government will be obliged to respond to the Education Select Committee recommendations which were based on months of combing through the evidence. So we look ahead with optimism and ask all our supporters to keep talking about SRE.
 
Conservative Party Manifesto
-   No specific mention of SRE or PSHE
-   ‘Will stop children's exposure to harmful sexualised content online, by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material and age-rating for all music videos.’
 
Labour Party Manifesto
‘Children develop and learn best when they are secure and happy. We need to help our children develop the creativity, self-awareness and emotional skills they need to get on in life. We will introduce compulsory age-appropriate sex and relationships education. We will encourage all schools to embed character education across the curriculum, working with schools to stop the blight of homophobic bullying.’
 
Liberal Democrat Party Manifesto
‘Introduce a minimum curriculum entitlement - a slimmed down core national curriculum, which will be taught in all state-funded schools. This will include Personal, Social and Health Education: a 'curriculum for life' including financial literacy, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, citizenship, and age-appropriate sex and relationship education.’
 
UKIP Manifesto
‘We support age-appropriate sex and relationship education at secondary level, but not for primary school children. There is a world of difference between teaching young children about online safety or telling them no one else is allowed to touch the private parts of their body, which is a sensible way to help prevent and encourage reporting of abuse and going into too much detail. The latter risks sexualising childhood, causing confusion and anxiety, and encouraging experimentation.’
  
Green Party Manifesto
‘Provide mandatory HIV, sex and relationships education - age appropriate and LGBTIQ inclusive - in all schools from primary level onwards. Make personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) a compulsory part of the school curriculum.’

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It’s the politics, not the policies that turn off young voters

by Richard Newson April 28, 2015

The election may be a turn-off to young people, but they care about the issues – argues Thivya Jeyashanker, an NCB young trustee.

This coming election is very important for me. Why? Because it’s the first time I’m going to be able to vote in a general election.

I have registered to vote (which thankfully I knew to do because of advice from my politics teacher) but many young people have not.

According to a recent survey for Newsbeat, half of young adults have not registered to vote in this year’s general election. The reason is some young people feel that they are not caught up with politics, whilst others don't think their vote counts. So what’s the solution? David Cameron believes that spending £14 million on advertising and promoting voter registration is the solution. Yes, I see the adverts at the bus stands but they don’t seem to have the powerful effect desired.

The simple fact is young people are not engaging in formal politics. According to the 2,734 young people surveyed by IPSOS Mori for the National Children’s Bureau’s Generation Next report, only 28% of young people aged between 18 and 24 were absolutely certain that they would vote in a general election. And only 13% of Generation Next, those aged 11-16. It highlights the decline in voting turnout for young people.

As a trustee for the National Children’s Bureau I recently got the chance to ask MPs and Peers directly ‘Do you think this matters, and what do you do to engage young people in the process of government?These parliamentarians were gathered at the House of Lords launch this March of ‘What next for Generation Next?’ – a follow up to  the original survey conducted last year. I was hopeful that the answers would provide an insight to how to solve the national epidemic of non-voting young people.

The answers were disappointing. It was just the same old jargon: ‘Young people are the future’, ‘more needs to be done’, blah, blah, blah. And it was correctly identified by a member of the audience that the three politicians (from varying parties) could have belonged to one. This isn’t good enough.

I have registered to vote but I don't know who to vote for. I have no affiliation to any political party (similar to the 71% of Generation Next). I don't know what each party stands for and how they are going to improve my future. Like Generation Next, I’m disengaged from mainstream political parties, but not from political issues.

For this generation it is policies over politics. Over 57% of the young people surveyed had done something to help other people or the environment in the past 12 months on a regular or infrequent basis. They have strong views on how the government should be spending their money. Many think that the government should be focusing its spending on the NHS, healthcare and hospitals (20%), education and schools (15%) and tackling poverty (11%).

They also have views on the legal age of responsibility. Around two in five think the legal age at which you can buy cigarettes, get married, join the army and be held responsible for a criminal activity should be raised.

Young people are getting involved, they are volunteering for charities, youth organisations, school councils and speaking out about issues that are important to them. Furthermore, we see young people protesting, tweeting, and blogging about what concerns them. Young people want to have their views reflected in policies. And I would like to believe that politicians want to hear what we have to say. But they just don't seem to be getting it right.

Instead of chucking money at the problem, why aren't politicians investing their time speaking to young people at colleges, universities, or even in the comfort of their homes by logging onto twitter or Facebook to speak directly to young people about the importance of voting.

Telling us to vote Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat, makes no sense to most of us who don't keep in tune with party politics. However telling us that you are going to invest in youth services, or keep our streets safe or how you are going to increase job prospects are more likely to get our attention.

Young people are disengaged with formal politics but they are engaged in politics. This matters. And politicians need to listen.

For more information on Generation Next visit: www.ncb.org.uk/generationnext   

Thivya Jeyashanker (aged 19) – is on a gap year and volunteers as a board member and trustee of the National Children’s Bureau.

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Manifestos under the microscope

by Richard Newson April 24, 2015

Will election promises bring real change to children lives, asks Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of NCB?

With all parties battling for our attention it feels like some sectors of the population are being wooed more than others. Children don’t get to vote so a cynic might say they don’t need to be wooed. We’ve waded through the manifestos of the three current main political parties, and had a look at those of some of the other contenders, to see if this is the case.

It is promising to see that the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have all made commitments in areas of children’s policy where the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) has been calling for change – but the challenge will be ensuring that whoever forms the next government translates promises into action.

Child poverty and giving young people a say

NCB believes that the voices of children and young people should inform the development of government policy, the best way to achieve this is through a cross-government strategy for children and young people, with a priority focus on reducing child poverty and inequality.

We have been calling for the Office for Budget Responsibility to monitor and report on progress against child poverty targets. Now Labour has included this commitment in their manifesto, with the Conservatives making a more general pledge to target the root causes of child poverty.

The Lib Dems would enshrine the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child in British law in order to place children’s rights at the heart of law-making. Both Labour and the Lib Dems intend to give young people aged 16 and 17 the right to vote during the next Parliament; an issue recently debated at NCB’s ‘Generation Next: Tomorrow’s Voters’ event at the House of Lords.

Early years

NCB believes that children should have the best start in life through access to high quality pre-school education and early years services that help them to develop and flourish.

The Liberal Democrats, Labour, and the Conservatives have all committed to increasing the number of hours of free nursery education for young children. In addition, Labour and the Lib Dems say they would protect the early years’ budget so that it rises with inflation, and the Liberal Democrats have promised that by 2020 every early years setting will employ at least one person who holds an Early Years Teacher qualification and an increase in the Early Years Pupil Premium. The Green Party wants to take things further, calling for an expansion of early education with compulsory school age rising to 7.

However, it remains to be seen how parties plan to ensure sufficient funding for a large scale expansion of high quality early education. It is essential to improve the quality and sustainability of nursery places, and increase the capacity and skills of the early years’ workforce.  

Education

Education alongside health is arguably the policy area that has seen the most change in recent years. In their manifestos, all three parties have acknowledged the importance of investing in children’s education and have committed to protecting the schools’ budget in real terms.

A number of policies align with NCB’s areas of work and the priorities of Young NCB (our advisory group made up of young people). These include, compulsory sex and relationships education (Labour) and Personal Social and Health Education through a ‘curriculum for life’ (Lib Dems); tackling all forms of bullying (all three parties);  training teachers to support early intervention (Labour); and improved careers advice in schools (Conservatives and Lib Dems).

Health

The National Health Service is shaping up to be a key election issue, with numerous competing promises for more investment over the next parliament. All three main parties have plans for improving access to GP services, something our work on primary care has shown is crucial for children and young people.

NCB and many colleagues in the sector have long been calling for more focus on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children so it is welcome that this features in several of the manifestos. Labour promise to increase the proportion of mental health spend dedicated to children, the Lib Dems committing to implement the report of the children’s mental health taskforce, and the Conservatives pledging to increase mental health spending overall.

Looked after children

There are around  70,000 looked after children in England at any one time, whose particular needs demand political attention, but this often cannot compete for the attention of politicians chasing votes up and down the country.

It is therefore notable that this group of young people are directly addressed in both the Lib Dem and UKIP Manifestos. The Lib Dems plan to increased focus on emotional wellbeing and resilience in the care system while UKIP have pledged to extend ‘staying put’ measures (that allow children to remain in foster care placements until age 21) to those in residential care – both issues we have been supporting government to engage with the children’s sector on over the last year.

Furthermore, both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems have plans to make it easier for vulnerable children to be placed in a new loving home, through proposals to improve adoption, and all major parties want to support better identification of those who need help and support through enhancing safeguarding.

The election and beyond

Whatever the outcome of the General Election, NCB will be holding government to account for promises made about improving children’s lives and urging them to listen and respond to children and young people.

An analysis of what party manifestos contain relating to children is available at: www. http://ncb.org.uk/what-we-do/policy

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Every good thing the internet has to offer!

by Richard Newson February 6, 2015

As Safer Internet Day approaches, Young NCB's Grace Garbutt call for both online safety and the freedom to enjoy the internet's benefits.

This year's Safer Internet Day will take place on Tuesday 10th February. The theme is: “Let’s create a better Internet together.”

It's an international event that aims to raise the awareness of the ways in which we, as children and young people, can protect ourselves from dangers online, while, at the same time, continuing to enjoy every good thing the Internet has to offer.

Safer Internet Day is not about making us do our maths homework by using shock tactics to stop us procrastinating on Facebook; it's about becoming more “street-wise” and using our time online productively.

As a rule, we should all be applying the same levels of respect towards each other in the virtual world as I hope we are doing in society, while bearing in mind the dangers of trusting strangers with our personal details. 

It is important that children are taught to realise new friends online may not be who they claim to be.

Safer Internet Day is also about the importance of getting parents and teachers involved in conversations about content that is unsuitable, that may be damaging to young minds.  

It is vital that parents know how to report their concerns to the police if their child has been inappropriately approached. Safer Internet Day provides this information.

Thankfully, stories in the media about succumbing to dangers online are relatively rare, but raising the awareness about staying safe is still needed.

It is evident that 40% of Internet users between the ages of 18-35 have regretted posting personal information and images of themselves in areas such as Snapchat. As well as being dangerous, it has proven to be embarrassing and has led to bullying.

Creating a better Internet together is about ensuring it can be used safely by all generations. It is about continuing to reap the rewards of innovation, bridging barriers to isolation, life-long learning, finding jobs and forming new and safe friendships.

The Internet has a huge potential to bring people together for the common good. Let's learn to stay safe together!

You can find out more and download information sheets by following this link: www.saferinternet.org 

Grace Gurbutt - Young NCB member

 

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Emerging policies on child mental health

by Richard Newson February 4, 2015

We must build on the momentum of recent policy announcements on children’s mental health, argues Keith Clements, Policy Officer at the National Children’s Bureau.

Children’s mental health services have been described as a ‘Cinderella service’ and in recent years we have seen evidence of cuts and shocking examples of children and young people being let down.

It will therefore be heartening for those working in the children’s sector that mental health and emotional wellbeing is turning out to be an area of significant discussion in the run up to the general election.

Earlier this month, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband welcomed the publication of an independent report commissioned by his party on this very subject. In his speech   announcing its launch, he indicated support for a number of its recommendations in relation to children and young people’s access to mental health services.

Mr Miliband stressed that both teachers and health professionals should have training in mental health. It is vital that all those working with children and young people know how to identify and respond to potential mental health issues, providing an appropriate level of support in their current setting, and being able to refer for more specialist help when needed. NCB has called for the early identification of mental health difficulties to be a core competency of the children’s workforce and highlighted the need for better training for GPs in children’s mental and physical health.

It has also been pledged that a Labour government would introduce a 28-day waiting time standard for children’s, as well as adults’, access to talking therapy and increase the proportion of mental health spending dedicated to children and young people’s services. Such action would go some way to supporting the commissioning of adequate services to meet children’s mental health needs.

As our submission to the health select committees inquiry into CAMHS, and the committee’s resulting report described, there is a ‘fog’ around the level of need and who is responsible for meeting it. The Department of Health is currently developing a survey on children and young people’s mental health and NCB is calling for this to be repeated regularly to inform the planning of services.

Last year, the coalition government appointed a children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing taskforce and their report is expected soon. If this sets out ambitious and well-targeted measures, this will add to the probability that whoever comes to power in May, they will have a clear plan for improving support for children and young people’s mental health.

In the mean time, the Chancellor’s autumn statement announced £150 million more funding to tackle eating disorders, giving another clear sign that this issue may finally be getting the kind of attention it deserves.

It will be vital that this momentum follows through into the establishment of a comprehensive strategy that can stand the test of time, addressing issues from the systematic underinvestment and lack of data, to better training for professionals and support for young people to develop resilience. It is only with co-ordinated action that policy promises will result in children and young people enjoying better mental health.


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Assessing progress in the early years and primary school

by Richard Newson January 26, 2015

Academic progress or the needs of the child? Heather Ransom assesses changes to early attainment checks.

A CentreForum report out last week has stated that children’s academic progress should be the main criteria used to identify whether England's primary schools are performing well.

Changes to how primary schools are held accountable will have a knock on effect for early years. Children’s attainment at age five is currently measured through the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile. The Profile enables teachers to gain a full picture of a child’s stage of development through observing their progress during the reception year. In addition to literacy and mathematics, the Profile assesses children’s physical, social and emotional development, their understanding of the world, and how they express themselves through art and design.

    


The government has announced that from 2016, teachers will no longer have to use the Profile. A baseline assessment will be introduced in its place – this will be a computer test which children will sit on entry to school to gauge their current level in maths and literacy. Baseline assessment scores will be tracked against Key Stage 2 test results to determine how well each primary school has supported children’s learning between the ages of 4 and 11.      

These changes have raised a debate about how and when young children’s progress is assessed. The Profile is valued by reception class teachers in helping them to identify children with SEN and additional needs, and they work closely with Year 1 teachers to ensure that children have a smooth transition onto their next class. In addition, the Profile data is collected by local authorities and informs the commissioning and delivery of children’s services.

Given its narrow academic focus and application by computer, the baseline assessment will arguably not be able to meet these outcomes as effectively. This poses a fundamental question about the role of assessment – is its primary purpose to support children’s learning or to measure school performance? 

Under the new regime, schools will be held to account on their academic performance. But if they are no longer required to complete the EYFS Profile, valuable information about the needs and achievements of each child may be lost.

Heather Ransom is Senior Policy Officer at the National Children's Bureau.

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New year, new review: What does the integrated review at age two to two and a half mean for health visitors and early years practitioners?

by Richard Newson January 8, 2015

This September, local areas will be expected to integrate health and education child development reviews that are carried out at two to two and a half years of age. Susan Soar of NCB’s Early Childhood Unit (ECU) explains how this will affect early years practitioners, health visitors and others working with young children.

The year ahead will see the introduction of an integrated health and early education review for children aged two to two and a half. In September 2015 local authorities will be required to bring together the Healthy Child Programme health and development review with the EYFS progress check at two, with the aim of identifying any developmental issues early on and putting in place effective early intervention and support. A recent NCB study of the implementation of the review in local authority pilot areas explored a number of possible models: from joint meetings between parents, early years practitioners and health visitors, to integration via information sharing after separate reviews have taken place.

So at a point in the calendar when many people choose to reflect upon the past and look ahead to what the coming months will bring, it seems a good time to consider what integrating health and early education reviews might mean for early years practitioners, health visitors and others working with young children. Likewise, are there any actions, or possibly ‘resolutions’, that we as individual practitioners could take during 2015 to support the introduction of the integrated review?

Being ready to form new relationships and build upon existing relationships. The integrated review is likely to mean the formation of new working relationships for health visitors, early years practitioners and other professionals working with young children and their families. Existing relationships may be re-framed or we may find ourselves needing to work closely with new and unfamiliar colleagues, becoming accustomed to their strengths, weakness and way of working. We will need to have respectful and balanced relationships with parents, or build these where they are lacking, valuing their perspective and the vital information they hold about their child. While the central tool of the integrated review is a parent-completed ‘Ages and Stages Questionnaire’ (ASQ-3), face-to-face discussion about the child is equally valuable and forming a strong partnership with parents can only make it easier for them to contribute freely and openly to the review process.

Going to new places. One integrated review model trialled by local authorities is that of physically bringing together parents, health visitors and early years practitioners for a joint review meeting. For us this may mean working in new environments, whether that is a health centre, an early years setting, a children’s centre or the child’s own home, or welcoming other professionals into our day-to-day workplace. It can take time to get used to a new environment, yet by acknowledging this we can make it our priority to ensure that the child and their parents feel as comfortable as possible, by providing toys, books and welcoming surroundings.

Learning a new language. In our work with young children we often speak our own professional ‘language’; using technical terms as an easy shorthand for elements of practice or patterns of behaviour.  While we can be instantly understood by our own colleagues, working with other professionals to carry out an integrated review is likely to mean gaining some familiarity with new technical terminology, or helping others to understand our own. This might be particularly important in areas where local authorities plan to integrate health and early education reviews via professional dialogue and information-sharing between health visitors and early years practitioners, after separate reviews have taken place.

Building on what we already do. Finally, introducing the integrated review is not so much a case of ‘out with the old, in with the new’, but rather a process of drawing together the complementary expertise of early years practitioners and health visitors who are both already reviewing the development of young children around their second birthday. An early years practitioner brings the ongoing observational knowledge of the child; a health visitor brings detailed knowledge of health and development in young children. While this may mean changes to the way we currently work, when these dual perspectives are brought together with the parents’ in-depth knowledge of the child then a more complete picture will be possible.

Susan Soar, NCB Early Childhood Unit and adviser to NCB’s 'Implementation study: integrated review at age 2 to 2-and-a-half years'.

The full review report and a slide pack to support local authorities in implementation of the integrated review are available here.

To find out more about the ECU at NCB visit www.ncb.org.uk/areas-of-activity/early-childhood

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Young people take the reins for Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Day 2014

by Richard Newson December 18, 2014

Last month, two of our Young NCB members had the chance to spend a day shadowing officials within government departments for Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Day. Here, they share their experiences.

Eva Mannan, aged 17, spent the day shadowing Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Sir Jeremy Heywood at the Cabinet Office.

John Hutton stated that “The Civil Service is a vital asset to the UK – in a way it creates a framework for excellence”.  On Friday the 21st of November, I was fortunate enough to embark upon a journey that enabled me to understand this. I was given the opportunity by the National Children’s Bureau to shadow the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, Sir Jeremy Heywood.

Eva with Sir Jeremy Heywood

The Civil Service is an “independent” or “neutral” body that is committed to serving the needs of the elected government. They are in fact a vital body as they provide the knowledge of their department to advise ministers, research and write reports and help form policy. Therefore, I believe that the Civil Service “creates the framework” for not only “excellence” but policy.

The first event of the day (The ACE event) gave selected civil servants and other companies the chance to express their views on the department and question Sir Jeremy Heywood about it. He aided them through their problems, providing them with a sufficient amount of advice. There was a clear sense of direction within the Civil Service which Sir Jeremy clearly laid out. He ensured that all were aware of the problems facing the UK; the economy, devolution and the EU. Furthermore, we visited HMRC where they discussed the ways in which they could tackle tax avoidance. Sir Jeremy was able to give positive feedback on their work and developments. Throughout the sessions it was clear that there was a great sense of unity amongst all, which highlighted the strength of the Civil Service as a community.

Next, I was given the chance to visit 10 Downing Street. When walking through the surpassing corridors a sense of admiration took over. We reached the staircase where I was greeted by the images of past Prime Ministers of the UK. I was left overwhelmed as curious thoughts drifted in and out of my mind. It was here I realised that I wanted to pursue a career in government. The visit enlightened me to a new world that I previously did not know of.

On the whole, the day provided me with opportunities that I could only ever dream of. The chance to shadow Sir Jeremy is something that I shall treasure as he truly illustrated the importance of the Civil Service and politics today. The day gave me a greater insight into the work of the Civil Service and how it benefits our society. Thus, this leaves me with the conclusion that: the “Civil Service does create a framework for excellence”.

Young NCB member Eva Mannan

Eva outside 10 Downing Street

Page Nyame-Satterthwaite, aged 18, spent the day shadowing Permanent Secretary Stephen Lovegrove at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The opportunity to meet one-to-one with the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Energy and Climate Change is not a common occurrence, even for those who work in DECC. So on Friday 21st November when I went to do just that and met Stephen Lovegrove, having been placed within DECC by the Cabinet Office for the Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Day, I did not know what to expect. On reflection, it surpassed any expectations I could have possibly had.

My entire time at DECC was enjoyable. From the “Ministry of Magic” style security tubes in the entrance hall and the meeting with Stephen Lovegrove, Permanent Secretary for DECC, to working on challenges with the 2050 Pathways Calculator model and sitting in on a lunchtime mindfulness session, everything was interesting and I was made to feel very welcome by everyone in the department.

I learned a lot, not only about the roles and structure in the department, but also about what it actually means to be Permanent Secretary or Strategy Director on a day-to-day basis. Very quickly it became clear that there is no specific type of person on a ‘correct’ pathway who would be best suited to having a career in DECC, or the Civil Service more generally. Especially in a department dealing with such a variety of topical issues involving energy and climate change, which are a constant feature in the news, the variety of experiences that had led everyone into the department was ideal for the work. The value of different experiences and skills to prepare for a career has already been highlighted in the YNCB Advisory Group’s work on “Careers guidance” as part of this year’s priority, “Is school preparing us for life?” and so it was encouraging to see this in practice in such a high-profile working environment.

The real value of the takeover day was learning about the realities behind the titles. It was not shadowing the Permanent Secretary – it was taking part in discussions, having meetings and considering challenges. I would strongly urge any children and young people interested in having a unique work placement to take part in the Takeover Day next year – you could end up working in a government department!

Young NCB member Page Nyame-Satterthwaite

Page has signed up with the Children’s Commissioner’s office to be a Takeover Day Ambassador. If you are a young person and would like to contact her about the scheme, send your question to page.nyame@gmail.com.

Page outside the department

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Human rights close to home: children’s rights to healthcare in England

by Richard Newson December 10, 2014

On International Human Rights Day, Keith Clements from the NCB policy team considers child health and wellbeing as a priority for the new government.

Today is International Human Rights Day when people and organisations around the world remember and celebrate the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eleanor Roosevelt, the driving force behind this blueprint for human rights, famously recognised that human rights begin:

in small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends . . . Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” 

This year, Human Rights Day has an added significance for children as it coincides with the 25th anniversary year of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). In addition the UK government’s track record on children’s rights will be scrutinised by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in the next year.

Article 24 of the UNCRC commits the UK* government to strive to ensure that no child is deprived of their right access to health services. It gives children the right to enjoy the highest possible standard of health and facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation. In its report to the UN this year, the Government have expressed some positive aspirations for children’s health, but there are still many opportunities we are missing to ensure that children are supported to be as well as they can be.

Despite improvements in recent decades, the UK has one of the worst child mortality rates in Western Europe.

The current focus on the early years, including the increase in numbers of health visitors, is to be welcomed. It is well known that children’s life chances are influenced early on, and a recent report from NCB and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Why Children Die, underlined that the first year accounts for most child mortality. But we need to be more ambitious so that newborns and their families have the support they need across a wider range of services. NCB, through the Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP), is leading one of five Better Start sites across England, working with parents and the statutory and voluntary sector to radically change the way agencies and services work with pregnant mothers, fathers, babies, their families and communities. In the longer term, Government must take responsibility for supporting the most effective multi-agency practice.

While the Government recognises the importance of the adolescent years in determining health behaviours and resilience, there is more that could be made of how school settings support wellbeing and access to services. The offer to this age group is reportedly led by school nurses but with around 1,200 school nurses spread across around 20,000 schools, other professionals and organisations will need to get involved to deliver this. Schools’ own efforts in this area are typically not recognised in inspections. A consultation on Ofsted’s framework for inspection which closed last week proposed an increased focus on personal development, behaviour and welfare. NCB is calling for these proposals to be strengthened to include better consideration of how physical and mental health are supported, and for young people to have an entitlement PSHE, including high quality sex and relationships education (SRE).

Mental health is a key area that Government were asked to report on to the UN Committee. The Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme (CYP IAPT) is an important piece of work highlighted by Government, but it should be noted that its focus is to improve existing services and therefore it does not directly affect the capacity of services to open their doors to all that need support. Research by YoungMinds found that both NHS and local authority commissioners had cut their funding of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Respondents to a survey that NCB and NHS Confederation carried out last year reported that such services were being squeezed and there was a lack of clarity regarding who was responsible for maintaining them. Government has established a taskforce for children and young people’s mental health, which is expected to report in the new year. For this situation to be genuinely turned around, a clear action plan is needed. This must be backed by resources and political priority continuing into the next parliament and beyond.

Children’s right to be listened to under article 12 of the UNCRC applies equality in the field of decisions made about health. Progress has certainly been made here, at least in terms of top-level messaging. National guidance on patient and public involvement makes it clear that children and young people should be involved, and the Friends and Family Test (a patient survey) is being extended to include children. Many of the priorities of the recently created health agencies in England may have been already set however research NCB carried out for the Children’s Commissioner found that under a third of local plans referenced children’s participation. Children’s views on primary care are still not regularly heard, despite primary care being a priority under UNCRC and the GP patient survey does not collect the experiences of those under 18. This has to change, especially as it is a major source of data used by the NHS as a whole to account.

Over the past couple of years, an independent group of experts, the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum, have helped focus and accelerate progress in key areas. Even they, however, have reported difficulties in triangulating the cross-government contribution to child health, and it is very telling that Government were unable to provide robust figures on expenditure to the UN.

Whoever takes up the mantel of leading Government in 2015 must make it a priority to have a clear plan for child health so that we can live up to the vision of the Universal Declaration and UNCRC and ensure that children’s human rights have meaning where they matter most - “in small places, close to home”.

*This blog focuses on English policy

Keith Clements, NCB’s policy and public affairs team.

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