Dame Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England, is today (Tuesday) launching a once-in-a-generation review of the future of childhood by the Children’s Commissioner’s Office. ‘The Childhood Commission’ will be inspired by the ambition of William Beveridge’s pioneering 1940s report, which laid the foundations of the post-War social security system. ‘The Childhood Commission’ will identify the barriers preventing children from reaching their full potential, propose policy and services solutions and develop targets by which improvements can be monitored.
The Commission will not focus only on the problems that have been highlighted and amplified by the Covid pandemic but will also address the policy shortfalls that have held back the lives of many children for decades. At its heart will be ‘The Big Ask’ – the largest consultation ever held with children in England. The Children’s Commissioner will ask children how the pandemic changed their lives for better or worse, what their aspirations are and the barriers to reaching them, how things are at home, how their communities and local environment could be improved, and how they feel about the future and the challenges facing the world.
‘The Big Ask’ consultation will take place after the Easter break. An online survey will be distributed to all schools, posted on the Oak National Academy, and advertised via social media, child-facing charities and other communications channels. To reach children outside mainstream settings, it will be sent directly to youth custody organisations, CAMHS inpatient units and children’s homes. Face-to-face interviews and focus groups will be conducted with children who are under-represented and harder to reach. This consultation will drive the subsequent phases of the Commission.
The Children’s Commissioner will publish an interim report before the summer, setting out children’s expectations and aspirations, and the barriers to attaining them, informed by the results of the consultation, an evidence review and data analysis. A subsequent report will propose solutions, investment, metrics, and set out the challenge to society to pay back to this generation of children and re-set their future.
The Childhood Commission will look at the ways in which society and political structures often short-change children. The pandemic has exposed social fault lines which had been hidden from the view of many and affected the wellbeing and prospects of the young. The number of children with probable mental health problems rose from one in nine children in 2017 to one in six in July 2020, and the IFS has calculated that 6 months of missed schooling can be expected to reduce someone’s lifetime earnings by around £40,000. Multiplied across all of the 8.7 million school children in the UK, this would amount to £350 billion over their lifetimes. The long-term impact of the crisis across all areas of children’s lives will only be known in years to come.
The Commission will argue that the prospects and welfare of children must be put at the heart of our economic recovery and show the way to do it. It will re-cast Beveridge’s ‘five giants’ for children today, identifying the barriers which prevent them having the best childhoods, the best preparation for successful futures, and a better life than their parents. It will propose a 10-year plan with annual metrics to monitor progress, across the sweep of childhood and the span of government.
Dame Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England, launching ‘The Childhood Commission’, said:
“As we emerge from the Covid pandemic, this is the moment for something big for children to recognise the sacrifices they have made. I have seen first-hand the effect of this crisis on young people’s hopes and dreams, and sometimes our answers simply have not been good enough.
“Our response to the trauma of the Second World War was to create a blueprint for a social service system and a National Health Service that improved our lives. We have the chance to do the same again now for children. There is a huge opportunity to remake our social settlement which won’t come again for decades, and we must seize it.
“I want the Childhood Commission to have the spirit and the ambition of the Beveridge Report – something that leads to long term changes that improve the chances of every single child, whatever their early standing in life and wherever they are in England.
“My ambition is for the Childhood Review to not just reveal the barriers that are holding children back, but also to help Government and others to provide policy solutions. It will also set out metrics and targets I will be using to hold them to account.
“I want to see childhood right at the top of the Government agenda. That means every speech from the Prime Minister and Chancellor mentioning children, and every Government department constantly pushing to improve the lives of children.”
“We will start by listening to children, holding the largest consultation with children in England that there has ever been. We want to hear from children from every background about their hopes and ambitions for the future, and to hear what is holding them back. Their views and experiences and ideas will help shape the way we deliver better outcomes not just for them, but for all our children in the decade ahead.”