Every child matters: Little Amal brings hope

The picture of Little Amal and Alf Dubs really resonates with me, not least because my mother, like Dubs, came to this country on the Kindertransport in 1939. It is a picture that completes a circle – the child is taken in and grows into the adult who fights for the rights of the next generation.

The contribution of a refugee

My mother grew up and became a teacher, first of hearing children and then the deaf. She was passionate that every child should receive the best possible start in life. She had lost her little brother in Auschwitz, as only those with host families were able to come to this country. Her own experience of being housed with an elderly couple was bleak but she remained positive and determined to make a difference through her chosen profession.

She would have been appalled at the way we are not valuing our young people and the actions being taken to close our borders to child refugees.

As Alma Powell, audiologist said:

“There is no better investment of time or money than in the life of a child. They are the future.”

Any society that does not value future generations is a society that is beginning to rot.

From the North East

Recent record of support for young people

There has been significant erosion in almost every area of investment in children and young people. From taking away the rights of child refugees to enter this country – to the provision for children with additional educational needs: we are failing our youth.

The current COP26 has highlighted that many young people consider our words to be so much blah, blah! We should be listening to their fears and solutions, making them co-constructors in the days to come. Their mental health has plummeted during the pandemic. For the most part this is as a result of huge uncertainty; whether it is where the next meal is coming from, the woeful handling of important assessments, or whether climate change will destroy their adult world.

The pandemic has only served to emphasise our failings. Marcus Rashford has felt compelled to campaign to feed hungry children but, in truth, the increase in child poverty over the last decade has been appalling. A seemingly forgotten UN report of 2018 concluded: “systematic immiseration [economic impoverishment]” of a significant part of the UK population, meaning they had continually put people further into poverty.”

The two child limit and removal of the universal credit uplift has significantly entrenched this situation.

Alison Garnham CEO of CPAG said:

“Child poverty had risen by 700,000 just as families entered the pandemic after years of benefit cuts. On top of this, the lockdown exposed children and young people to isolation and falling behind in their learning. Families deserve better and we desperately need a new focus on children and young people who although a minority are 100 per cent of our futures”  

If we cannot support the weakest in society then we cannot look the next generation in the eye and say we have truly done our best.

This is from a recent report into SEND provision:

“Ofsted said the reports were “very concerning. As before the pandemic, we’re seeing children and young people with special educational needs, and their families, being let down by the system. In some places, these shortcomings have been made worse by Covid-19. Moving forward, it’s vital that children and families are given the priority they deserve.”

However, there is little evidence that there is any will from those in power to rectify this situation.

The most important challenge

If we accept that investment in the following generations should be our biggest focus then challenging child poverty, providing for children with additional needs (which in terms of education in general improves teaching and learning for all children), creating a safe and welcoming haven for child refugees and taking significant decisions to halt the climate crisis become very high on the current agenda.

In the photograph of Little Amal and Alf Dubs, it is possible to see all those immigrants who have come here and made a significant contribution to our society, my mother included.

Every child matters because each one has the potential to improve and enrich society. This world needs every single one of them to have a safe and secure childhood with excellent education because this will mean that the future is in safe hands – the hands of Little Amal.

Read more by Nicola Freeman.

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