Children First

Leading charities and organisations launch a petition to urge the government to appoint a Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People, and put children at the heart of crucial decision making.

Supported by Lucy Powell MP, Central Manchester Constituency, Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England and pop star and father of four Peter Andre, Children First and Water Babies are co-ordinating sector-wide support for the Government to appoint a Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People. The campaign launched last night with an event at the House of Commons and a public petition on Change.org. The event saw key guest speakers in attendance including: The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield OBE, Steve Franks, Lead spokesperson for Children First and CEO of Water Babies and Peter Andre.

Children are becoming the least healthy adult population in living memory, menaced by five 21st century ‘evils’, including:

  • obesity and physical inactivity
  • adverse childhood experiences
  • rising mental health issues
  • dominance of social media and screen time influence
  • socioeconomic disadvantage and cultural/ethnic divide

Children First and Water Babies is bringing an authoritative voice within the Cabinet to bring all these issues together and devise solutions that will be more than just firefighting on an individual policy front.

This strong voice for children at Cabinet level would work in the same way that the interests of women are served by the current Cabinet Minister for Women and Equalities. Ultimately, Children First want the appointment of a full Secretary of State supported by a dedicated Department and Select Committee.

Children need help now and therefore taking significant action in the short term must be considered to be not only desirable but essential.

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England: “I am more convinced than I ever was that we need a Cabinet Minister for children. This is a complicated world and what we need is someone around the top table that will be there to shout about children, to lead change and champion and speak up for children.

Take current political issues. In the three major documents around Brexit, there were only three mentions of children, and these were footnotes. We need impactful changes to give children a voice at the top table.”

Peter Andre said: “We need this campaign to take off and quickly. Times are changing, the things facing our children are very different to when we were growing up. Social media is pouring in, video games are dominating. We need to help them get ready for the future”.

Steve Franks, Chief Executive of Water Babies and Board member of the ukactive Kids Council, said:

Understanding that our future generation is worth fighting for and giving them a voice in politics is paramount to Children First the Water Babies vision.

Our children are facing a wealth of 21st century “evils” and we hope our campaign will ultimately lead to the appointment of a new Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People, to give children an authoritative voice to help devise solutions to issues such as physical inactivity and rising mental health issues, together.”


-ENDS-


Notes to editors

For more information on how you can support visit: www.ChildrenFirstCampaign.com


Sign the petition

 

About Water Babies

Since it was co-founded by Paul Thompson in 2002, Water Babies has grown into the world’s largest baby swim school, today teaching more than 52,000 babies every week through a network of family businesses across the UK, Ireland, Canada, The Netherlands, New Zealand and China

In October 2015, Water Babies co-authored the Baby and Toddler Swimming Teaching Guidelines and in October 2017 co-authored an All-Party Parliamentary Group report in physical activity in the early years which were launched at Westminster

53% of primary schools provide no curriculum-guided swimming lessons plus a lack of formal training for teachers directing swimming classes and the prohibitive cost of transport to swimming pools (as above)

A recent study highlights that a third of school pupils aged 11 will finish Year 6 unable to swim despite a national requirement that every Year 6 leaver be capable of unaided swimming over 25 metres (http://www.sportsmanagement.co.uk/Sports-news/latest/Swimming-UK-Education-Policy-/333260?source=search)



About Children First

politics in the best interests of the child

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WHY WE NEED A CABINET MINISTER FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE


Introduction

The purpose of Children First is to encourage policy-makers to put children at the heart of all decision-making.

Children First’s leading spokesperson is Steve Franks, Chief Executive of Water Babies. Steve is also a Board member of the ukactive Kids Council, with lead policy responsibility for Early Years Physical Activity.

Children First is co-ordinating sector-wide support for the Government to appoint a Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People.

This strong voice for children at Cabinet level would work in the same way that the interests of women are served by the current Cabinet Minister for Women and Equalities.

The breadth and depth of some existing barriers to a fit and healthy childhood are vast. Ideally, they would merit the appointment of a full Secretary of State supported by a dedicated Department and Select Committee, but this type of structural change cannot be achieved overnight.

Yet, in so many ways children cannot wait and neither should they. They need help now and therefore taking significant action in the short term must be considered to be not only desirable but essential.

For this reason, we are calling upon the Government to appoint a Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People.

The current junior Ministerial post for children is not an insignificant role either by intention or scope. However, children’s needs will always elude pigeon-holing because they are not confined to a single issue or even one policy set. A junior Ministerial post is therefore incapable of driving with the requisite authority an integrated cross-Departmental response to the challenges.   

Ireland has a dedicated Department for Children and Youth Affairs. Detailed information is available here:


https://www.dcya.gov.ie/docs/EN/Strategy-Statement-of-Department-of-Children-and-Youth-Affairs/2084.htm