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“Children and young people should be able to speak their truths and be confident in sharing their beliefs and concerns to decision-makers.” – Zara, Children’s Commissioner young Ambassador

Over the last three years, as Children’s Commissioner, I have heard from more than a million children about their hopes, fears, experiences and their ambitions for the future.

They are insightful, brimming with creativity, ideas and solutions about the issues that impact their lives.

They have told me their thoughts about mental health, education, knife crime, cost of living and a whole myriad of other issues – issues which have been reflected over the last six weeks of the general election campaign.

It is my job to listen deeply – and reflect what they tell me truthfully to those in positions of power: politicians, policy makers, the adults in charge. 

As we welcome a new government it’s a hugely significant moment for us all.

It’s especially important that I share what children have told me with our new Prime Minister and his team – which is why last week I launched my 100 Voices for 100 Days campaign.

The first 100 days of any new administration is often seen as a defining period, where a government sets out its key missions – so for the first 100 days of the new government, I will be sharing a child’s voice, giving their honest and positive vision of how to improve the experience of childhood.

This vision has been shaped by the views and experiences of the children that I have heard from when I have visited them in schools, care homes, residential settings, young offenders’ institutions amongst other settings across England.

It’s with all those million voices in my mind that I can say how important it is that we all listen to what our young people think and want from our leaders. I would like to see children’s voices at the heart of the new government’s missions.  

Only one in five of those who responded to my most recent survey, The Big Ambition, said they agreed that people who run the country listened to what they had to say. 

As their Commissioner, but also as a former headteacher, teacher and a parent, it’s time that we moved the dial. This generation is ambitious, optimistic and they have faith that the adults in charge can make great change happen – they deserve to have that faith rewarded.  

Now we have an opportunity to rebuild their trust in decision makers. They deserve to be listened to by politicians.

What does this look like in reality? It means that when the national conversation turns to things like housing, we should be talking about what it’s like for a child living in a B&B who has to move schools in the middle of the year, not just about mortgage rates or getting a foot on the housing ladder. It means discussions about ending poverty usually focus on benefits and income tax, but must also reflect what it feels like to be a child wondering whether they’ll have food on the table for dinner and witnessing their parents’ exhaustion from working two jobs.  

I want our new government to give children every opportunity to represent their views in person: to parliamentary committees, at MP surgeries and through student voice councils.  

I believe that we should raise up their voices.

With more than 1.4 million children missing at least 10% of school, one million children awaiting referral for mental health treatment and children as young as nine accessing harmful sexual material online, they deserve to be listened to more than ever.  

The voices I will be showcasing over the next 100 days are what children have told me are their priorities.

Children may not have a vote, but they always deserve a voice. 

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