WE all know how tough this pandemic has been for children and what sacrifices they have made.
Most have been out of school for months. They have had to adapt to learning from home, have missed seeing friends and family and gone without after-school clubs, playing out and socialising.
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Some will have lost parents and relatives to Covid.
The consequences of shutting children away for the best part of a year are obvious.
We have a children’s mental health epidemic. Many have fallen behind at school.
Some younger children have lost basic social skills. The most vulnerable have often fallen out of sight.
Sometimes it feels like the future of a whole generation is on the line.
So today I am launching a Childhood Commission to put our kids front and centre. And I need YOUR support to help me do it.
'THIS IS A BIG MOMENT'
As someone who was working in schools during most of the pandemic, I have seen first-hand the effect on our young people’s hopes.
Often it has felt like our answers have not been good enough.
But as we come out the other side of this terrible year, this is a big moment. It is time for the adults to give something back.
It is brilliant to see schools open to all again and I never want to see them in national lockdown again.
I am pleased the Government has appointed a “catch-up” tsar and provided funding to help get our children back on track.
But our ambitions should be so much higher than simply returning to the old normal.
World War Two revealed the social ills that were holding us back as a country.
In response, the Beveridge Report, published in 1942, helped to create the social security system and the NHS that we have relied upon ever since.
The Covid crisis gives us the same chance to look at what is going wrong for many children in our country — and to put it right. I don’t believe there needs to be a “lost generation”.
In fact, we have a once-in-a-generation chance to make children our country’s top priority and to deliver solutions that solve the problems that have held back many of them for decades.
My Childhood Commission will be inspired by the same ambitions as the Beveridge Report, revealing the barriers that are preventing children from reaching their full potential and getting on in life.
It will put forward bold solutions and it will draw up tough targets so we can hold to account the Government and all those who provide services to children.
DREAMS FOR FUTURE
We can provide the Prime Minister with a blueprint that helps ministers and others to find answers to some of the toughest generational problems.
With Sun readers’ help, I want to put your children right at the heart of our plans, because nobody knows better than your kids what is holding them back and what would help them to thrive.
Next month I will be launching the largest consultation ever held with children in England.
Our survey, The Big Ask, will go out to all schools and through the fantastic online Oak National Academy, which has provided so much educational support during lockdown.
I want to hear from children from every background about how the pandemic has changed their lives, for better or worse. I want to hear what their dreams are for the future.
I want to hear what is stopping them from getting on. I want to hear how life is for them at home, at school, in their local town or village.
HELP ON THE WAY
What your children tell us will help us decide what our big priorities should be for children over the next ten years. All the feedback and research we gather will be presented as a report, with recommendations to the highest levels of government.
Too often, children have been short-changed, forgotten about or simply ignored when decisions are made. I want that to change.
I want to see children right at the top of the government agenda.
Every speech from the Prime Minister and Chancellor should mention children, and every government department should be constantly pushing to improve the lives of every child.
I am optimistic this can be achieved and that this commission can inspire our politicians to think about children when they are deciding about spending or about schools, mental health, tackling poverty or the environment.
We should be in no doubt that the experiences of the past year will have changed our children.
It is now our job to make sure it changes them for the better.
We need to make sure they emerge from this pandemic knowing they weathered a storm and that there is now help on the way.
That means not just getting them through the next stage as they catch up on the life experiences and education they have missed over the past year, but also setting them up for a great childhood and a successful future in the decade ahead.
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