A new crisis of modern-day childhood in the 20th century
The story of Action for Children dates back to 1869, when our founder, Methodist minister, Reverend Thomas Bowman Stephenson set up our first children’s home in the capital. Determined to help children living on the streets of London, Stephenson was passionate about trying to give the most vulnerable in society the best start in life and from there an even brighter future. Then known as the Children’s Home (later The National Children’s Home), his work quickly spread across the UK helping children everywhere from Cardiff to Chipping Norton and London to Lancashire.
Over the last 150 years, the charity has continued to work tirelessly with children across the UK and continues to provide life-changing support through our services for children, young people and families. In 2019, there may not be the same issues of homelessness and poverty that Thomas Bowman Stephenson witnessed on the streets of London, but sadly, children continue to be vulnerable today and we are needed more than ever. This is why, in our 150th year, we have launched a new campaign: Choose Childhood.
In today’s modern world, mounting pressure exists – making life tougher for children and young people. Additionally, growing concern around mental health for children and young people has meant many are struggling to get the help they need. Children are deemed as being most vulnerable in society, yet, some are left without adequate support amidst facing life-challenging issues such as neglect, abuse and poverty.
As a result – the demand for services to support vulnerable children and families is more than ever before. This year we surveyed over 5,000 parents, grandparents and children and almost two-thirds of parents and grandparents told us that childhood was getting worse – with nearly two million children agreeing. We found that parents and grandparents don’t think that this generation of children have as bright a future as previous generations with childhoods today overshadowed by anxiety – nearly 30% of young people admitted to being worried about their mental health. Children also told us that they were worrying about ‘adult’ issues such as Brexit, terrorism and the environment and some were concerned about their safety online and becoming a victim of crime.
Things are getting worse for the children most at risk as well. Every 15 minutes a child is taken into care for their own safety. Over four million children are living in poverty – that’s nine in an average classroom of 30. One in five children under the age of 18 have been exposed to domestic abuse. We cannot let these children fall through the cracks as government cuts see vital support disappearing for those that need it most.
We’re calling on the government to develop a new UK-wide strategy to address all the issues our children face. Part of this needs to see spending budgets prioritising children and childhoods whilst public policy must be rebalanced to promote early intervention and stop young people falling into crisis. As a charity we’re committed to supporting children, young people and their families for as long as it takes to make substantial change and to ensure all children have a safe and happy crisis-free childhood.
Children don’t choose their lives, but we can choose to act. I urge you to help us help them by signing up to our campaign at www.actionforchildren.org.uk/choosechildhood