Children being failed as Brexit looms large, reveals new report

RCPCH Officer for Health Improvement responds to new report published by the Children's Rights Alliance for England, saying "Brexit is a complex and important priority; however, it should not mean that other issues get left on the shelf".

A new report by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) has revealed how children are traumatised, powerless and vulnerable to abuse in many areas of their lives.

The State of Children’s Rights in 2018 report includes new data gathered using Freedom of Information requests and shows that:

  • Local authorities are making use of a legal loophole to house families in B&B accommodation for longer than the legal limit. 1,641 families with children were housed in council-owned B&Bs and hotel-style accommodation in 2017, almost two thirds (1,056) for longer than six weeks, which is the maximum time councils are allowed to house families in private B&Bs.
  • Increasing numbers of children and young people are being housed in independent accommodation which can include B&Bs, hostels, tents and caravan parks, many of them for long periods. At least 1,173 children were housed in independent accommodation for longer than six months in 2017, including 19 children aged 15 and one aged 14.
  • Police use of tasers against children is increasing, with 871 uses in 2017 and 839 in the first 9 months of 2018. Tasers were used on children as young as 12 and on 4 occasions children under 10.
  • The use of spit hoods is increasing year-on-year. Spit hoods were found to be used on children as young as 10, with at least 77 uses on children in 2017 and 145 incidents in the first nine months of 2018, although the true figure is likely to be much higher.

CRAEs find little evidence of progress on children’s rights issues over the past year, suggesting that a focus on Brexit is reducing the Government’s ability to address issues such as rising exclusions from school, mental health problems and child poverty.

Responding to The State of Children’s Rights in 2018 report, Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Improvement for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said:

Brexit is a complex and important priority for the Government and rightly so; however, it should not mean that other issues get left on the shelf.

This report raises a number of concerns, particularly around the use of spit hoods and tasers on children but it also shines a light on inequalities. Growing numbers of children are living in unsuitable housing such as B&Bs and hotels but as local authorities witness large cuts to their budgets – particularly in public health - it is hardly surprising more suitable, permanent solutions are not being found.

Inequality is a major contributing factor to poor child health outcomes and can lead to higher rates of poor mental health, increased alcohol or substance misuse, obesity and death. The gap between rich and poor continues to widen, so without inequalities being addressed, the health of children like those identified in this report are likely to suffer.

We need to see the Government support local authorities by freezing further public health spending cuts, funding that acts as a safety net for many families, preventing people falling further below the breadline and helping ensure vulnerable children and their families have a more equal chance in life.