‘The fact that some adults don’t believe in children’s rights, and we have those rights, so we need the Government to speak about rights for kids so that we have a life of some sort of freedom. And that we have respect for adults so adults should have at least some respect for kids around the world’ – Boy, 10, The Big Ask.
When I took up post as Children’s Commissioner for England and reserved matters in March 2021, I wanted to hear directly from children about what they thought my priorities should be. I was clear that that my priorities should be shaped by their views and experiences. That is why I launched The Big Ask, my survey of children in England which quickly grew to become the largest survey of children ever, collecting the voices of over 550,000 children.
At the time as a country, we were beginning to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and thinking about the longer-term impact on children and young people. Children had made huge sacrifices during the pandemic to protect the older generation. Schools were closed for most children; they weren’t able to see their friends or their family networks and couldn’t take part in their hobbies that they so enjoyed. I wanted to give them all the opportunity to tell the nation what really mattered to them and how we as adults could dismantle barriers to them succeeding. I have reflected on what children told me about their lives and what they want throughout my submission to the UN.
Since March 2021, I have continued to listen to children. My team has now heard from almost 600,000 from across the country, either through speaking with them directly or by hearing about their experiences through surveys. Children’s voices have been at the heart of everything I have done, from a national audit of school attendance to the independent Family Review.
This report is no different. Informed by the thousands of children who have spoken to me, sharing their hopes, ambitions, and even their fears, this is my submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). My report is all about how we can continue to make sure every child, regardless of where they live, has their needs met and their rights upheld.
And as a reminder of why this is so important, let me finish with what one girl told me:
‘Children’s rights and the lack of people open to talk or listen to children’s worries and concerns’ – Girl, 11, The Big Ask.