“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Those were the words of the great Nelson Mandela who was a powerful advocate of the rights of children and the responsibilities nations and communities have to support, develop and protect the next generation.
At a gathering in London today, I and Cllr Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families, joined others from across the UK to celebrate the world’s foremost commitment to children, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). We discussed and debated the impact of this monumental declaration of the rights of the child whilst also reflecting on the reality of being a young person growing up in 2019.
The challenges that face children, young people and families are laid bare by the many headlines written about child poverty, increasing inequality and the impact of austerity on the services people rely on. But the question that I ask and is asked of me is; “what are you doing about it?”
Nelson Mandela also said: “Each of us as citizens has a role to play in creating a better world for our children.”
Those words are reflected in our own city’s commitment to children and young people, The Bristol Children’s Charter, which addresses its 10 commitments by saying: “No single organisation or agency can make enough progress towards these aspirations alone. Partners commit to working together to deliver this vision for all children to create a thriving city that is good for everyone.”
Our approach to support, develop and protect children and young people is a collective one. We work together with other agencies, charities, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, youth organisations and most importantly families, to put in place the structures and activities needed to deliver on our shared ambitions.
As a council we have invested £3.2m a year in youth services, which is delivering targeted services for the most deprived communities in the city. We can only do this by working with charities, youth organisations, NHS, Police and many others.
As a city we’re on the road to eradicating period poverty by pulling together the creative and organisational wealth of the city. All sectors are engaged in this movement that Cllr Godwin is driving ahead with our partners.
We’re building schools, tackling youth homelessness, delivering apprenticeships and feeding children during the summer holidays.
This and much, much more is being done because we, like the UN community, agree that the rights of the child are our responsibility to uphold and deliver.