We welcome the Children’s Commissioner Report 2017 and the fact it highlights some deeply worrying issues.
These include the findings that nearly 700,000 children are living in heavily disadvantaged families – over 500,000 of whom need direct state intervention – 160,000 children are excluded from school and 200,000 have experienced abuse or neglect.
These underlying facts are often overlooked in a public and media debate around children and young people which understandably focusses on knife crime and gangs – believing these issues to be causes in themselves. In our frontline work on the SOS Project, we believe that they are symptoms – not necessarily causes – of more the fundamental findings highlighted above. The question ‘why?’ is often asked in relation to weapons crime – some of the answers are in today’s report findings.
Furthermore, money currently being spent on state interventions – which often represent emergency crisis interventions – could be better channelled towards prevention and ongoing support to address causes.
We particularly welcome the fact the Commissioner has highlighted that this is the tip of the iceberg and many of the most vulnerable children are ‘off the radar’ and often reported missing. These are the ones our SOS Team have increasingly been helping. Younger and more vulnerable children are becoming exploited by the world of drugs, gangs and crime. This world has entered their young lives as the traditional support structures of state and stable families have receded. The young people themselves suffer tragic consequences as a result.
Urgent action is needed and we do not claim to have all the answers. However, our experience on SOS shows us that the following is vital:
- Early interventions such as those carried out by our SOS+ team
- Intensive, one-to-one support from an independent, trusted role model who is not perceived as an authority figure
- Proper information sharing between agencies and good partnership working
- Support for whole families – if one child is at risk their siblings probably are too
- And – importantly – long-term funding for projects and services which are demonstrated to be having an impact.
Ultimately, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that vulnerable children in our society are given the opportunity to have a positive, happy and healthy life. On SOS it is our commitment to continue helping young people who often have nowhere else to turn and trying to reach the many more who need our help. Sadly, despite our very best efforts and the kind support of our loyal funders, we lack the resources to be able to this and call on commissioners to act now.