The Good Childhood Report 2012 published earlier this month by The Children’s Society, gives us rich food for thought. Perhaps not surprisingly it found that family is the most important factor in children’s well-being, particularly its harmony and stability. Having friends and the quality of peer relationships feature highly too, though to a lesser degree than relationships within the family.
Feeling safe both at home and at school are important to children’s well-being but around 7% reported not feeling safe at school. In fact those reporting regular and recent bullying by peers are six times as likely to have low well-being as those not bullied at all. On the issue of feeling safe, girls feel safer in rural areas than in urban ones.
Link between poverty and lower aspirations
Changes to household income were found to affect well-being, particularly in the poorest 20% of households. I welcome the news that most children are happy with their health and place importance on doing well at school. However, one must be concerned by the link between poverty and lower educational aspirations and expectations.
A real fascination of mine is body image in adolescence, so I was particularly struck by the results pertaining to children’s feelings about their appearance. No surprises really: negative feelings about appearance increase with age and more so for girls than boys.
Choice and freedom
As an advocate of youth-led activity and active listening to the young, the most striking, fundamental issue in the report for children’s quality of life is that related to choice, freedom and autonomy. A substantial minority (23%) feel they have very little choice, with 23% feeling that their views are not listened to locally. This also worsens with age. For those of us who work with the young: take heed and do more!
The Good Childhood Report set out what children need and how they can get it and I believe that volunteering can play a significant part in many respects. Especially on issues of self-esteem and confidence, relationships with others, opportunities for free play, access to the outdoors, feeling safe, experiencing care and caring and having plenty to do in the local area. Volunteers can provide opportunities for children to experience all of the above – and volunteering itself enables young people to experience these things for themselves.
Opening up opportunities through volunteering
Here at vInspired, opportunities for young people to be heard occur through programmes like vcashpoint and Team v; and we also link young people to many wider opportunities in the charity sector through our website, vinspired.com.
Of course there is little that can replace the fundamental of a stable and harmonious family. But we can most certainly supplement it and fill some of the gaps to give children the best possible present and future.