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For the Sake of the Wellbeing of Children and Young People, Adults Now Need to Show Leadership in the Wake of Brexit

29/06/2016 11:57

Before Thursday's historic referendum result, and the subsequent political fallout, these were already anxious times for many children and young people. The benefits afforded older generations, be that free university education or universal affordable housing, have gone. And the uncertainty created by the referendum result is likely to have intensified children and young people's concerns for their future. As a BBC feature has highlighted 'parents and teachers have been bombarded with queries from interested youngsters and schools have rearranged lessons to discuss the key issues'.

Whatever your political views and visions for the future of the country, we now need to come together in the best interests of our children and young people. Our main objective should be to listen to those under 18, who had no say in the outcome of this referendum but who will inherit its repercussions, and to take necessary steps to safeguard their future.

Specifically, we need to ensure that the necessary social scaffolding is in place to support all children and young people, but particularly the most vulnerable. The proposed Life Chances strategy, alongside existing mental health policy has the potential to bring about the changes needed within services and wider society to provide this social scaffolding. In the political vacuum that has now engulfed Westminster, it is crucial that this isn't put onto the back burner.

The Prime Minister said that the Life Chances strategy will address big social issues, such as child poverty, and parenting, which we know are some of the key social determinants of mental health difficulties. Services will no doubt carry on doing what they are doing, but things may not move forward, or at least not at national level. This means that we are likely to see continued patchy coverage over the country.

With the world changing rapidly around them, and the old certainties gone, there is now an even greater need to provide the resources to tackle inequalities in child mental health, with a real shift towards prevention. This means that Government should stick to its plan to implement the Future in Mind and Mental Health Task force report, and ensure that the £1.4 billion of increased funding for children's mental health is delivered on the ground. We also need to ensure that parents and teachers have the skills and knowledge to support children's mental health, and recognise early signs of stress and the importance of early intervention.

We also need to think about how the result impacts on the children of EU nationals living in the UK and the children of immigrants more widely. In these times of heightened tensions, there must be a concerted effort to ensure that these children are made to feel welcome in the UK and to let it be known that any form of discrimination will not be tolerated. As well as the legal and moral case, discrimination is another key risk factor for mental health difficulties.

Change is difficult. It is not necessarily bad. But it is destabilising. As the politicians jeer at each other in the House of Commons and as people abuse each other on social media, it is important to remember that our children are watching. Whether we voted remain or leave, we supposedly did so for the benefit of our children and young people. Now is the time to puts aside our differences and put them first.

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