Friday, 27 March 2015

Teenagers are citizens too

This week I've signed an open letter to broadcasters to ask politicians what they will do for children in care in the forthcoming leader's debates. The letter is part of Children England's #ChildrenAtHeart campaign to ensure political parties consider the needs of children in their policies.  I've written before that children are citizens, but its worth repeating. Just because they don't have the vote doesn't mean they aren't important.

The sign of civilised society is one that protects and supports the vulnerable. Children are vulnerable because they are powerless - they don't have political or economic power; and are therefore dependent on the rest of us. The letter is about children in care because they are the most vulnerable of all children and actually the state has more responsibility for them as 'Corporate Parent' having total responsibility for them while they are in care.

Kathy Evans, Chief Executive at Children England recently wrote a wonderful piece in Children and Young People Now magazine reminding us of the hysterical rejection of young people during the first decade of this century - anyone in a 'hoodie' was feared and despised. Of course it's not new that young people in the teenage years have perplexed adults but some public attitudes towards young people would not be tolerated if expressed towards say women, disabled people or racial groups.

Sarah Jayne Blakemore is professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London. She explains how new brain imaging techniques have made us realise the huge, fundamental changes that take place in human brains between puberty and the mid 20's. Changes and growth as dramatic as happens in the brains of babies and toddlers.

Current public policy is to concentrate resources to children and parents in the 'early years' i.e. pregnancy, babies and children up to age 4. The argument being that investment at that stage of life has good long term benefits. This is true, but Professor Blakemore's research suggests an equally strong case for youth services, secondary education (and probably parents of teenagers too). This is particularly important today when council support for youth services has all but disappeared in many local authorities.

I wish that politicians would take note of the growing body of knowledge about young people's brains in formulating policy for this important group of young citizens.

No comments:

Post a Comment