Any government has a moral obligation to support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society, and this must especially be the case for children and young people within our communities. And yet, tragically, too many young people are being exposed to a perfect storm of hunger, physical inactivity and social disconnection – with the latter in some cases manifesting itself, heartbreakingly, in knife crime. Both their physical and mental health are under attack. Tanni Grey-Thompson and Lawrence Dallaglio write for The Guardian.
Research by ukactive shows that children and young people suffer a loss in fitness levels of up to 80% over the summer holidays, with the fitness of those from low-income families falling 18 times faster than their more affluent peers. This mirrors “summer learning loss”. A report by the Education Policy Institute shows that schoolchildren who were eligible for free school meals for 80% of their time at school were on average 24 months behind their classmates, and it is estimated that 66% of the achievement gap can be explained by summer learning loss.
The research on holiday inactivity now sits alongside new figures from the Trussell Trust, which show that during the past year more than 577,618 three-day emergency food supplies were given to children in crisis in the UK, as well as the latest police statistics on knife crime – a record 40,829 offences in 2018, up 6% on the year before.
During the school holidays, the effect is magnified. New findings released today by ukactive and ComRes show that 74% of UK adults believe there is a lack of youth facilities over the summer break, and 77% say there is a lack of places for children and young people to be physically active. Simply put, we are letting down the next generation.
It was with this background that we went to Downing Street on Thursday as part of a delegation to discuss the health and wellbeing of children and young people in our society. We arrived with both evidence and solution. Our group included Professor Rosie Meek, who last year led an independent review on the impact of sport in the youth justice system; Steve Howell, headteacher of the City of Birmingham school (the largest pupil referral unit in the country); and John McAvoy, an ex-criminal-turned-Nike athlete. Our message was clear: there are many causes of social injustice and there is no silver bullet, but we have something powerful that can play a major role in reversing health inequalities among young people.
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