A mother walks down the road with her two young children
Children, young people and families, Government and politics, Mental health

New report lays bare the challenges facing children, young people and families

The report calls for a 'national plan for childhood' and a Department for Children to be created to transform the mental and physical health and life chances of children.

20 February 2024

By BPS Communications

The BPS has said a new report, 'Childhood Matters', from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services lays bare the damaging impact of austerity and the pandemic on the mental and physical health of a generation of children. 

It states there has been a ‘massive missed opportunity’ to prioritise the needs and wellbeing of children in the pandemic recovery, with the poorest families affected by soaring rates of poverty and declining public services.

The report also calls for a Department for Children to be created to coordinate children’s policy across government.

Dr Roman Raczka, president-elect of the BPS, said:

“This report lays bare the devastating impact of not just the pandemic, but 14 years of austerity and chronic underfunding of the public services which should be there to support children and their families. Currently three in ten children are living in poverty which is having a hugely damaging impact on their life chances.

“We know that the psychological impact of adverse childhood experiences and growing up in poverty can extend into the school years and adulthood, with children growing up in poverty three-to-four times more likely to develop mental health problems.

“Research also indicates that growing up in poverty can be linked to having fewer opportunities to learn and grow, lower academic aspirations, and impacts the ability to build social skills and form friendships and enjoy different experiences in life, which is why investment in family and children’s services is urgently needed. 

“We are still paying the price for the disruption the pandemic caused to children, in particular the impact on their education and wellbeing, with those from the lowest-income households the hardest hit and inequalities widening.

“There is a big question for any incoming government to answer, and that is: ‘Are they prepared to invest in our children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing’? Only then, with serious levels of investment, will we see change and an improvement in all of our children’s life chances.”

Further reading 

BPS supports campaign to make Universal Credit enough for people to afford to cover essentials

One in two people experiencing more anxiety about being able to pay their bills than last year, warns BPS

Briefing papers - From Poverty to Flourishing

Poverty and mental health - Mental Health Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Foundation review

Mental Health Foundation - Poverty statistics