Sunday, 9 July 2017

For some it will never be the ‘Darling Buds of May’

In 1892 the High Rid Reservoir was constructed as part of the need to supply water to the cotton industry and the local population. It lies just some 3 miles outside of Bolton, which in 1838 was the second town to be incorporated under the Municipal Corporations Act, and did so 12 days before Manchester, that other somewhat famous North West place did… ...just saying. High Rid is some 7500 steps (5.3Km) from my Bolton House front door and back, and it is one of my favourite walks. Last week on my walks I saw new generations of ducklings in abundance, the Sun had Her hat on most mornings, and as Cello and I walked, we were accompanied by dancing damsel flies weaving their intricate patterns along our pathway.

Walks around High Rid last week were also punctuated by the shrieks, screams, shouts and laughter of children having fun on the water. The owners of High Rid, United Utilities, allow Bolton Council to run a range of activities for children and young people – including canoeing, kayaking, raft building, sailing, in fact all water sports other than swimming. It was great to see the children having fun, doing something physical, outside and being in the company of other children, all of which is good for the physical development and emotional well-being. One of my neighbour’s sons attended such a session last week and he was so excited to have the opportunity, and he loved it.

However, there were a number of stories last week which didn’t paint such a rosy picture. The one that stayed upper most in my mind was a series of reports from the Children’s Commissionerfor England. The reports draw on data and information held by a range of government departments, agencies and third sector organisations. The reports make for a very hard read and present some very shocking statistics about the number of children in England living in vulnerable situations. The reports contain a huge amount of granular detail, too much for this blog. However, some of this information I found staggering, and I regularly read up on the research in these areas.

What I was aware of was that children and young people make up nearly 25% of the population. 40% of all primary care activity relates to this group. Nearly 3 million children aged between 0-17 are in contact with tier 1–3 child and adolescent mental health services each year. Such services include GP (primary care), services in schools and some specialised services. Of these 15% have a long term condition, 6% have a disability, and that 50% of all mental health problems in adulthood start by the age of 14. 50,000 children experience child abuse each year. Over 500,000 children are so vulnerable that the State has to step in with nearly a 1000 children being cared for within the criminal justice system and in secure accommodation of some sort. Some 60,000 children go missing each year and nearly 50,000 children aged 10-17 are involved in gang related activity. And there are 700,000 young people who are carers. All of which is what has been reported. The real statistics might be much higher of course as much of this activity happens ‘under the radar’.

What I didn’t know was nearly a third of children aged up to 5 years of age have significant tooth decay problems, or that there were some 46.000 emergency admissions for children with lower respiratory tract infections,  or that  some 130,000 young people between  ages of 15–24  were tested positive for Chlamydia  - and generally for children 15 and above, they seemed to be in a high risk group, with some 20% of those engaging with risky behaviours including smoking, drinking, poor diet and poor physical activity. There were over a 100,000 hospital admission due to unintentional and deliberate injuries in children aged 0–14, nearly 50% of which were aged 0–4. In addition there were some 50,000 admissions following self-harm in children and young people aged 10-24. Nearly 12,000 children had parents receiving drug treatment, and 15,400, children where parents were receiving treatment for alcohol abuse.   

The disturbing statistics go on and on – sadly. As a Father of 5 children, and now 10 grandchildren I felt humbled and ashamed in reading these reports. More so as I come from a generation that openly declared we would not bring our children up as our parents did. I love my parents, but in many ways I think I am very different to them. But they loved, cared for me and they did so unconditionally throughout my childhood, and continue to do so now albeit some 60 years later. And if asked, I hope my children will say the same about me.