It’s Time To Talk About #SeeTheChild – A Campaign To Save Britain’s 1.5m Neglected Children

We all signed up to #BringBackOurGirls, right? So what about the problem that's far closer to home?


by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

Earlier this year, the plight of 200 girls taken from their school in Nigeria went global. Though they are sadly still to be recovered thanks to diplomatic complications, prising them from the clutches of a violent terrorist group has become an international concern, with everyone from Barack Obama to Cara Delevingne uniting behind the Bring Back Our Girls campaign.

While there is room for outrage over more than one issue affecting young women – and unfortunately, there are and have been far too many – it’s interesting that while we all rushed to support #bringbackourgirls, the 1.5 million children falling through the cracks in the UK right now receive far less attention.

Yes, abuse and neglect of young people is not only confined to far-flung, war-torn countries; it’s happening in your country, a country seemingly at peace, with social liberties.

A 400-page report from the Centre for Social Justice, released today, shows the full scope of this neglect. Containing testimonies from various whistleblowers, it reveals that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are subjected to sexual abuse, physical abuse and are being left without food.

In fact, it says that the system is ‘completely overwhelmed’ because of higher thresholds required for children requiring care. Over 73 per cent of social workers say that they can’t do their job properly – which has resulted in some local authorities turning away children they can’t help to meet budgets.

This is why the charity Kids Company is launching its ‘See The Child. Change The System’ campaign, asking people to tweet pictures of themselves as children, to aid awareness of the British children being failed by the care system.

‘One in seven child protection departments are failing and only 40 per cent of child protection departments are deemed “good” or “satisfactory”,' says Camila Batmanghelidjh, the founder and director of Kids Company. ‘It’s tantamount to saying that one in seven trains crash. Is that OK? You’d suddenly start thinking that it’s a very systemic problem.’

Why are things so dire in a country which ranks sixth in the list of the world’s richest countries? Well, according to Camila, it’s because these invisible children – hence #seethechildren – have no political power. ‘Children don’t vote and can’t hold politicians accountable.’

They’re not part of the ‘hard-working families’ set up, precisely because they don’t have families. And if their parents can’t – or won’t – give them basic standards of living, it’s doubtful they’re the sorts to go down to the polling booth come the 2015 general election.

So, instead of going directly to parliament to get stuff done, Kids Company is calling on the public to do something about it: ‘We’re trying to create a contingency of caring voters who can demonstrate to central government that actually this is an issue that they want prioritised.’

‘One in seven child protection departments are failing. It’s tantamount to saying that one in seven trains crash. Is that OK?’

To help make a difference and to show that you care about this issue, Kids Company is simply asking for a text. It doesn’t cost anything more than your normal text charge and it’s just a quick way of adding your name to a petition that says these children deserve a voice. You’ll see celebrities posting photos of themselves as children, too, along with the hashtag #seethechild.

Though there’s much criticism of celebrity involvement in causes, as Camila puts it: ‘If celebrities can use their fame to mobilise for improvements and it is done genuinely, it can only be an asset.’

Childhood neglect at the hands of a confused care system is a situation that 26-year-old Becci Wallace knows better than anyone – and believes needs urgent attention. Her mother died when she was 13 and she was separated from her brother and taken into care. ‘I felt like I didn’t really belong anywhere and a lot of that wasn’t the foster carers’ or social workers’ faults as such, it was because of the system.

‘For me to stay at a friend’s house I would have to get everybody over the age of 18 there police-checked, which is a bit of a violation of my friend’s family. It’s like you’re telling me to be a teenager, you’re telling me to be normal, but you’re putting all of this red tape and crap, for want of a better word, in front of me, that’s preventing me from being a normal child,’ she tells *The Debrief. *

Becci ended up under the care of two different social services – Isle of White and Lambeth – but she then got pregnant. After refusing pressure to have an abortion, she had her baby, but things didn’t get easier. ‘I said to a social worker: “Why is my child on the [at] risk register?” and they said it was because of emotional abuse and neglect.

‘So I then posed this question to her and I will still remember her face for the rest of my life: “You took me from my parents, are you telling me the people you paid to bring me up have not brought me up to a level that I’m a productive member of society that I can parent my own child? Did my parents fail me, or did you fail me?” She couldn’t answer me.’

As such, Becci agrees with the report that there’s an endemic crisis going on. ‘There’s such a big failing in the system. It’s great that cases like Baby P are being brought into the media, but what about the other hundreds of Baby Ps that have been picked up on by the media. The entire system needs to be looked at from the bottom to the top. Not from the top to the bottom. Because the system isn’t good for foster carers, isn’t good for social workers and it certainly is absolutely no good for the children they’re trying to protect.’

To sign up to the petition, text 'I SEE' to 63000 (standard network charges apply, no donation is taken) or sign at the campaign website

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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