Children’s Commissioner: The Big Ask will be England’s ‘biggest child consultation ever’

Dame Rachel de Souza, the new Children’s Commissioner for England, says she will stage the country largest consultation ever held with children, as part of a once-in-a-generation review of the future of childhood.

‘The Childhood Commission’ will be inspired by the ambition of William Beveridge’s pioneering 1940s report, which laid the foundations of the post-World War Two social security system.

The aim will be to identify the barriers preventing children from reaching their full potential, propose policy and services solutions and develop targets by which improvements can be monitored.

‘Address policy shortfalls that have held back children’

Focusing not just on the problems that have been highlighted and amplified by the Covid pandemic, the commission will also address the policy shortfalls that have held back the lives of many children for decades. At its heart will be this consultation, ‘The Big Ask’, which will find out from children how the pandemic has changed their lives, their aspirations and the barriers to reaching them, their home lives, how their communities and local environment could be improved, and how they feel about the world’s future challenges.

‘The Big Ask’ consultation will take place after the Easter break, with an online survey distributed to all schools. It will be advertised through social media, child-facing charities and other communications channels. To reach children outside mainstream settings, it will be sent directly to youth custody organisations, child mental health units, and children’s homes. Face-to-face interviews and focus groups will be carried out with children who are under-represented and harder to reach. This consultation will drive the subsequent phases of the commission.

Dame Rachel de Souza will publish an interim report before the summer, setting out children’s expectations and aspirations, and the barriers to attaining them, informed by the results of the consultation, an evidence review and data analysis. A subsequent report will propose solutions, investment, metrics, and set out the challenge to society to pay back to this generation of children and re-set their future.

As we emerge from the Covid pandemic, this is the moment for something big for children to recognise the sacrifices they have made,” she said. “I have seen first-hand the effect of this crisis on young people’s hopes and dreams, and sometimes our answers simply have not been good enough.

“Our response to the trauma of the Second World War was to create a blueprint for a social service system and a National Health Service that improved our lives. We have the chance to do the same again now for children. There is a huge opportunity to remake our social settlement which won’t come again for decades, and we must seize it.

“I want the Childhood Commission to have the spirit and the ambition of the Beveridge Report – something that leads to long term changes that improve the chances of every single child, whatever their early standing in life and wherever they are in England.

‘I want to see childhood right at the top of the agenda’

“My ambition is for the Childhood Review to not just reveal the barriers that are holding children back, but also to help Government and others to provide policy solutions. It will also set out metrics and targets I will be using to hold them to account.

“I want to see childhood right at the top of the Government agenda. That means every speech from the Prime Minister and Chancellor mentioning children, and every Government department constantly pushing to improve the lives of children.”

“We will start by listening to children, holding the largest consultation with children in England that there has ever been. We want to hear from children from every background about their hopes and ambitions for the future, and to hear what is holding them back. Their views and experiences and ideas will help shape the way we deliver better outcomes not just for them, but for all our children in the decade ahead.”

Author: Simon Weedy

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