In response to the Government's white paper on levelling up

Author: Mark Russell, Chief Executive

We welcome the Government’s ambition and commitment to level up the country. It’s vital that plans to level up for children don’t start and end at the school gates, we will need to go much further to deliver tangible change for children and young people.

Girl with blond hair stood outside house staring straight at camera.
Copyright Laura McCulskey

In order to empower local leaders to level up hope and opportunity for children and young people, they need to be resourced properly. A whole new swathe of Mayors and devolution deals will achieve nothing if local authorities don’t have the money to spend on life-changing and life-saving services for children and young people.

We’re pleased to see the government commit to an improvement in well-being, but this needs to include a focus on children’s well-being to ensure that policy interventions are truly levelling up for the next generation. We very much hope this means the government will commit to comprehensive national measurement and improving children’s well-being, which our research shows has significantly declined over the last decade.

The focus on living standards ignores the elephant in the room: child poverty, where the evidence shows that work still isn’t the lifeline it should be. If children are living in households where they can’t afford the basics like food, clothing or heating, they aren’t going to be able to have the best outcomes.

From our work with children targeted by organised crime and sexual predators — where the response they get from services is a postcode lottery — we’re concerned to see the focus continues to be on ‘the worst affected areas’. Investment is needed across the country and not only in selected areas. Many children get drawn into anti-social behaviour and crime due to serious challenges in their lives and because they have been exploited. Instead of punishing these young people with visible labour as suggested here we would urge the Government to prioritise early help, addressing underlying issues, protecting them and helping them to recover.

Children need the government to be more ambitious for them than improving their English and maths results. We want the government to seize this moment to improve not just transport, infrastructure and economic productivity, but to prove their commitment to the true meaning of levelling up and level up hope and opportunity for children and young people by 2030.

We want the reality to match the rhetoric because we know that children have missed out for too long and there is no area of policy where the levelling up agenda is more crucial.

Hear more about our work.

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