Being the mum of a newborn makes me realise just how vulnerable little ones are and how important it is that community services are available from birth onwards. It’s very upsetting that the Government’s austerity measures has led to them closing so many Sure Start centres – and now the Conservative led Lancashire County Council is proposing to cease delivering children’s services from another 19 buildings including Appletree Children’s Centre in Lancaster. These centres in particular offer support to families that are facing difficulties.
This comes at a time when the Children’s Commissioner has revealed that over two million children in England are growing up in families where there are serious risks.
The Children’s Commissioner’s 2018 Report into Childhood Vulnerability states that 890,000 children are living with parents suffering serious mental health problems, 825,000 children are living in homes with domestic violence, 470,000 children have parents who use substances problematically, 100,000 children are living in a family with a “toxic trio” (mental health problems, domestic violence and alcohol and/or substance abuse), 470,000 children are living in material deprivation and 170,000 children care for their parents or siblings.
I’m haunted by the words of Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England.
“Over a million of the most vulnerable children in England cannot meet their own ambitions because they are being let down by a system that doesn’t recognise or support them – a system that too often leaves them and their families to fend for themselves until crisis point is reached.
“Supporting vulnerable children should be the biggest social justice challenge of our time. Every day we see the huge pressures on the family courts, schools and the care systems of failing to take long-term action. The cost to the state is ultimately greater than it should be, and the cost to those vulnerable children missing out on support can last a lifetime.
“We get the society we choose – and at the moment we are choosing to gamble with the futures of hundreds of thousands of children.”