15/06/2015 16:38 BST | Updated 15/06/2016 06:59 BST

Put Children and Young People at the Heart of Policy-Making

With this year's Queen's Speech out of the way, it's time for the Government to get down to business, working out details of its new policies and their implementation.

Beyond the headlines and fiscal targets of the next five years, plans such as changes to Jobseeker's Allowance and housing benefits will have a long lasting impact on children and young people - often hitting the most disadvantaged and vulnerable the hardest. Politicians must never lose sight of this fact.

Action for Children shares the Government's ambition to create opportunity for every young person in the UK. When almost one in six people aged 16 to 24 is unemployed, and around a quarter of that group have been looking for work for at least a year, no one could disagree that more must be done to get young people into work, study or training.

We are worried, however, that changes to the Jobseeker's Allowance for young people will have a negative impact on the most disadvantaged, rather than encouraging them to seek work. Those with the greatest needs - like children who have been in care - need help with underlying issues that make it difficult for them to find and keep jobs. This can include making up for poor experiences in education or emotional trauma, rebuilding confidence and improving everyday skills. Many of these young people need access to training and support to find jobs that last beyond a few months.

We have similar concerns with housing benefit, which, under proposed regulations, could be withdrawn from people aged 18-21. Many of the young people we work with do not have the option of living with their parents while they look for work. Young people leaving care, or having to leave the family home in unhappy circumstances, experience greater risks and have more complex needs than others. Arguably, they need a safe and secure place to live more than most of us, for their mental wellbeing as much as to find work. For some a home that is currently available and safe may soon not be. For others there are risks of them being criminally or sexually exploited and they need to live somewhere they are not exposed to people who would do so. The Government needs urgently to consider the harm this change could do to people who are already struggling for a life of stable independence.

Another Government proposal which will have significant effects on children is a greater allowance of free childcare for parents. This is welcome, but the Government must ensure it is high quality care that supports the development of children's language, social skills and confidence. Maintaining these priorities will mean that more children are properly prepared for school and get off to a good start. This is also an opportunity to ensure improved availability of childcare in areas where it is currently a struggle for parents to find spaces.

The Government needs to put children and young people at the heart of its policy-making and consider how it is going to meet all of their needs. Giving all young people a fair chance to achieve their potential means recognising that some will need more help than others. It also means thinking of the long term effects of policies, not just the immediate costs and rhetoric surrounding them. That makes really good economic as well as social policy sense. That makes really good economic as well as social policy sense.