How will vulnerable children fare under the Coalition’s cuts?

About one in ten children in the UK suffer abuse or neglect, according to figures by charity Kids Company, who work to protect the capital’s homeless, abused, and vulnerable children.

Our guest writer is Arthur Baker, a 17-year-old Young Labour member from south east london, who campaigned extensively in the run-up to the election, and is now education rep for the True Labour Policy Group following his work for the Campaign for State Education

One of Labour’s key goals in their 13 years of power was to eradicate child poverty, and progress has been made. However, some of the most vulnerable children in Britain now hover under Osborne’s axe.

About one in ten children in the UK suffer abuse or neglect, according to figures by charity Kids Company, who work to protect the capital’s homeless, abused, and vulnerable children. One child is killed every week by abuse from parents/guardians, and of those who come to KidsCo for help, 84 per cent are homeless, 83 per cent suffer sustained trauma, and 87 per cent suffer mental health difficulties.

Research by leading neurologists working with KidsCo has shown that neglect and abuse causes irrevocable damage to brain development, and can lead to long term mental health difficulties, violence, alcohol and substance abuse. One girl’s story, as documented by KidsCo, gives an example of this.

My worry is that these children will not be protected, but victimised and demonised by our new Government in their mission to crack down on ‘anti social behaviour’ and crime. Labour’s double edged sword of Sure Start centres, support, and rehabilitation, coupled with ASBOs and tougher sentencing may have worked, but cutting the former whilst extending the latter will have a dangerous and detrimental effect on the most vulnerable children.

The VAT rise and the Coalition’s cuts will also have an adverse impact. As things stand, of the 1.5 million children abused and neglected in Britain, around 547,000 are referred to social services, and only 37,900 could be protected by a child protection plan; social services have a crippling lack of resources and workers.

It has come to a point where some have even been forced to set up ruthless quotas, according to founder of KidsCo Camilla Batmanghelidjh, where they will intervene if a child has been raped, but not if they have been sexually abused without penetration. Further cuts to the already emaciated social services budget will be crippling, but cuts in other areas will of course take their toll too.

Cutting Sure Start, and the support to parents and children who so desperately need it, will be catastrophic, and will unquestionably lead to an increase in neglect of young children. The VAT rise, job losses, cuts to schools, health etc. will also put more children in danger of abuse, neglect, malnutrition, homelessness, and all of the things which should have no place in an affluent society.

However, mention of child protection was omitted from the Coalition Agreement and ignored by both parties’ manifestos, as in the election campaign: we know Cameron “met a black man”, and plenty of people worried about anti social behavior, but apparently none of the leaders met a vulnerable child.

Have the Government considered the effect of their policies on these children, who outnumber membership of the three political parties combined, and the entire Sikh population of Europe? We cannot know, but what we do know is that we cannot trust them to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

That Labour are out of power, does not mean that we should stop fighting to reduce child poverty, and protect the vulnerable – and a good place to start is Kids Company’s Peace of mind campaign. The charity have created a giant virtual brain, in which you can buy a neuron for £5, upload pictures, write messages, and join groups with others who have joined. So far the list includes Stephen Fry, Helen Mirren, Ruby Wax and many others.

It’s already being Tweeted by Kerry McCarthy, and John McDonnell has agreed to help out as well; you could hardly be in better company.

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