A survey of three generations of families by the charity reveals that two-thirds of parents and grandparents and over a third of children believe childhood is ‘getting worse’.
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A total of 5,000 children and adults took part in the research. Of these, 2,082 were children, 1,559 were parents and 1,379 were grandparents.
Parents, grandparents and children all agreed that bullying is the biggest problem preventing a good childhood, as is the ‘pressure to fit in’.
Half of the children surveyed (1,041), who were all aged 11-18, were worried about poverty and homelessness, closely followed by the environment. Issues surrounding inequality also came out as key worries.
Action for Children, which is marking its 150th year of helping children, is now warning of an ‘emerging childhood crisis’ as it says young people are facing ‘unparalleled social pressures’ at the same time as a ‘drastic reduction’ in children’s services.
With concerns that the UK’s most vulnerable children will be hit hardest by this growing crisis, the charity has launched its new campaign, ‘Choose Childhood’, today.
As part of the campaign, it is calling for a new UK-wide cross Government strategy, led by the Prime Minister, which seeks to invest in and join up a range of ‘much-needed’ children’s services, ranging from youth centres and mental health programmes, to early intervention services.
Action for Children’s chief executive Julie Bentley said, ‘What we want is for every child and young person in the country to have a safe and happy childhood with the foundations they need to thrive. The country is sleepwalking into a crisis in childhood and, far from being carefree, our children are buckling under the weight of unprecedented social pressures, global turmoil and a void in Government policy which should keep them well and safe.
‘Our research shows children worry about poverty, homelessness and terrorism and the vulnerable children we work with every day are facing traumas like domestic abuse or neglect, going hungry or struggling with their mental health, without the support they desperately need.
‘For the past decade, the Government has been asleep on the job when it comes to investing in our children. The next Prime Minister must wake up to this growing crisis and put our children first. We want to see the establishment of a National Childhood Strategy, so departments right across Government can get a grip on these issues, backed with funding to deliver urgently needed services to keep children safe from harm.’
Education secretary Damian Hinds said, ‘Although in many ways this is the best time yet to be young, I certainly recognise the pressures and worries young people feel. Growing up has never been easy, but technology and social media can exacerbate the need to fit in and the perception of others’ perfect lives, as well as make it harder to leave being bullied behind at the school gates.
‘But we are equipping young people for adulthood in a changing world, by identifying mental health problems and providing support in schools, encouraging young people to gain resilience and skills through activities such as sport and music, and teaching young people in school how to navigate the online world safely and constructively.
‘The Government is also giving young people a voice in the issues they care about, such as combating serious violence and knife crime, addressing mental and physical health challenges and concerns about the environment and climate change, through a new Youth Charter which is in development.’