New report reveals millions of children live vulnerable ‘at risk’ lives

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Imagine being invisible – imperceptible, unnoticeable…nothing; in defiance of the very notion of ‘being’. It’s something so inconceivable that it’s almost impossible to comprehend. And yet “The Children’s Commissioner’s 2018 Report into Childhood Vulnerability” reveals that 1.6 million of the 2.1 million children thought to be living in families with substantial complex needs, are effectively invisible. No one knows whether these children are actually getting any of the coordinated help they need, despite the difficulties they are growing up with.

Some poignant stats highlighted in the report are:

• 890,000 children live with parents suffering serious mental health problems
• 825,000 children live in homes with domestic violence
• 470,000 children live with parents who use substances problematically
• 100,000 children live in a family with a “toxic trio” (mental health problems, domestic violence and alcohol and/or substance abuse)
• 470,000 children live in material deprivation
• 170,000 children care for their parents or siblings.

In an interview with the Independent newspaper in 2009, Mr Justice Coleridge, who had been working in family law for 37 years at the time (and for eight years as a judge), said that he social problems related to the breakdown of the traditional family are now, and have been for years, just too big to ignore. The judge doesn’t define ‘social ills’ but does say that the breakdown of the family unit can leave children scarred, sometimes severely scarred, for life. By inference, we can deduce crime, violence, mental health issues, substance abuse etc. as some of the ‘ills’ in question – the very issues articulated in the aforementioned Commissioner’s report as reasons for the degeneration of many families in the UK.

It’s been almost ten years since Mr Justice Coleridge made this very real and true observation based on his professional experience in a court of law, and have these ‘too big’ social ills been resolved? Well, if the Commissioner’s report is anything to go by; no – certainly not if families that are at risk of breakdown (or are already broken) are falling under the radar of support. If society is to be ‘fixed’ of its ills, then family breakdown needs to be addressed. The question: is enough being done?

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, responding to the report, says:

“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.”

Kids Matter is an initiative that offers support to this system. We aim to equip churches to run a specialised parenting programme for families who are facing adversity. Designed to give parents the chance to grow their parenting skills and confidence, the programme provides churches with a way to respond to family life challenges in their community. The church nominates a facilitator to run the programme; Kids Matter will then train the nominated facilitator, also supervising and supplying the materials to for the programme itself.

Please contact Kids Matter (info@kidsmatter.org.uk) for information regarding our parenting programme – perhaps you’d like to partner with us, volunteer or even support us financially. 

Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

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