Children in Need - of a government who cares.
Children in Need is a national embarrassment. I’m not talking about an ageing male presenter being paired with a succession of attractive younger women during the broadcast (the Beeb have form on this one - think Bruce and Tess etc), I’m talking about the fact that we need it at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter of it and yes, we’ve been baking buns and will be donning spotty costumes on Friday and donating as we always do. But every year I also find myself asking the question - why doesn’t the government fund these children’s services we are raising money for?
A quick look through the projects in my area, the north of England, which are being funded by Children In Need reveals the following:
- support/respite care for young carers
- swimming lessons for children with disabilities
- counselling for children who have suffered sexual violence
- a safe place for children who are at risk of sexual exploitation
- support for young disabled children to access public transport
- a support worker for children who have escaped domestic violence
- a bereavement support service for young people
- a sibling support worker at a children’s hospice
- a helpline for children and young people contemplating suicide
We are not talking about nice little add-ons, an extra outing here and there, we are talking about providing a safe place for children at risk of sexual exploitation, of helping traumatised children and potentially saving their lives.
Clearly the Government - not just this government but previous ones - feels none of these projects are worthy of public money, otherwise they would have funded them. Well I would challenge any MP to tell me what it is our taxes are paying for that is more important than any of these things.
Because at the moment the message we are sending out to our most vulnerable children is that we, as a society, don’t think they are important enough to help, but hopefully some people will shave their heads, sit in baths of baked beans and bake cakes to make sure they get the help they need.
Yes, I know it’s a time of austerity but children are bearing the brunt of that as well, what with Sure Start centres closing, the so-called bedroom tax putting children at risk of homelessness and increasing numbers of children relying on food banks for their meals. What more important time is there to ensure that helping and protecting vulnerable and disadvantaged children is at the top of our political agenda?
I was inspired to write my novel The Mummyfesto, about three ordinary mums who decide to set up a child-friendly political party and stand in the general election, because I was so incensed at how children appear to be bottom of the list of priorities for the Government.
My characters came up with policies which included fully-funding children’s hospices and all the projects supported by Children in Need and ensuring children’s operations aren’t cancelled at short notice.
I’ve had a huge response from readers who not only enjoyed the book but wished there was a real life Lollipop Party campaigning for children.
But of course, children don’t have a vote, so their voices remain largely unheard. That’s why they’re easy victims for cut-backs and why it’s so important that we, as parents, stand up for their rights.
And being kept safe and being offered help after incredibly traumatic experiences are rights, not privileges. Which is why I’m asking that when you sit there bawling your eyes out as you watch stories of the incredibly brave youngsters Children in Need is helping, you do more than just donate money this year.
After you’ve made your donation you also go on social media sites and email your MP to say how sickened you are that politicians don’t deem these children worthy of your taxes.
And then maybe one day something will change and we’ll be watching Bankers In Need instead. Although whether we’ll be quite so generous remains to be seen.