At our Summer event, children and young people chose Violence, Abuse and Bullying as the theme they wanted us to work on in 2008/09. We spent a lot of time visiting children and young people’s groups across England, documenting what they had to say in young offender institutes, health services and schools to name but a few.
We’ve encouraged others to listen too. As a result of our Happy and Healthy project, many of our partners have become powerful advocates for participation, sharing their skills with others. Over 10,000 children and young people and 500 organisations took part in the first 11 MILLION Takeover Day. Organisations used the day to showcase the participation work whilst other used it as a platform to kick start the process.
We welcome the Government’s commitment to play and, in partnership with Play England, respond to the Fair Play consultation. We have become a strong voice for children seeking asylum, especially those who are here alone without their families. Using my statutory powers, I visited an asylum screening unit and a local authority residential home. Since then we have seen concrete examples of changes made to improve the lives of children, young people and families in detention. We are delighted that the Government has agreed to review its reservation on asylum to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. My hope is that it will be lifted and we will see and treat children seeking asylum as vulnerable children first and foremost.
We have been particularly effective in challenging the ‘Mosquito’ device through our BUZZ OFF campaign, working closely with young people, The National Youth Agency, Groundwork and Liberty. The campaign sparked intense debate and interest from overseas as to why England is prepared to treat our children in this discriminatory manner. We are delighted and encouraged that Kent County Council, among other organisations, has taken a stand by banning the device.
In our work on youth justice, I listened to young people in the criminal justice system and voiced my concerns about their treatment, particularly the overuse of physical restraint. The Government has set up an independent review of the use of restraint which will report back this Autumn. We have submitted evidence to the independent review of child and adolescent mental health services and hope that we will see continued progress in the delivery of high quality care for children with mental health problems.
I am encouraged by the unprecedented focus by all political parties at this time on children’s issues. I will continue to share the views and lived experiences of children in England today with all parliamentarians to ensure policy and practices are designed in their best interests.
Our first Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families’ vision for England to be the best place in the world for young people to grow up is one I wholeheartedly support.
The Children’s Plan, published last year, has the potential to create a society where children are more valued, and where their interests take centre stage.
I will work with Ed Balls and his committed team to see the plan implemented fully for young people in England.
Finally, I am grateful to the many individuals and organisations that have worked with and supported us over the past year. We have ambitious plans for the coming year but I know that together we can make a real difference to the lives of all our children.
Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green