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Researchers call for needs of children to be at heart of policy-making


Southampton researchers have joined calls for a change in government approach so children are at the forefront of policy.


Professor Keith Godfrey and Dr Kath Woods-Townsend have contributed to a new report published this week by the Children’s Alliance.


The Family and Community Report combines expertise from academia, business and the voluntary sector to help enable better outcomes for children and young people.


The national report highlights Southampton’s LifeLab programme as an effective model to build healthier communities.


Unheard, unseen and unprotected’


Representatives from business, the voluntary sector and academia joined politicians at the House of Commons’ Terrace Pavilion on Wednesday.


The event promoted the new recommendations as part of a quartet of reports. It focussed on calls for the appointment of a Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People.

Professor Keith Godfrey, Theme Lead for Nutrition, Lifestyle and Metabolism in the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, said:


“Unheard, unseen and unprotected, the current generation of infants and children face multiple issues that make it increasingly difficult for them to live their lives to their fullest potential. This new far-reaching report sets out a comprehensive package of measures that need to be prioritised by the new government.


“These include presenting the case for ring-fenced funding for all local authorities to invest in community leisure and education projects and services focused on improving young lives and the wellbeing of the next generation.


“This needs to be coupled with mandatory food and drink standards for early years settings, alongside nutrition training and support being added to the curricula for the early years workforce.”


Learnings from LifeLab


The third chapter of the Family and Community Report explores school and the curriculum.


Its authors say young people need to be engaged with the world around them and given tools to apply across the curriculum and beyond.


The chapter champions the LifeLab educational programme in Southampton, which educates young people for lifelong health.


It has been established by the University of Southampton, the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre and University Hospital Southampton.


Dr Kath Woods-Townsend, LifeLab Programme Manager, says: “Our mission is to empower children and young people, through scientific discovery, to understand the need to make positive lifestyle choices for themselves and for future children they may have.


“We are proud to support this latest report from the Children’s Alliance and hope the LifeLab approach can provide a model to support children and young people across the UK.”


Needs at the heart of policy


The reports from Children’s Alliance were launched just two days after the announcement of a new Prime Minister.


Baroness Frances De Souza, Honorary President of Children’s Alliance, welcomed the timing:


“Sky high energy bills and a catastrophic cost of living crisis hot on the heels of a ‘once in a century’ pandemic mean that we cannot go on as before. Children and young people are consigned to the margins of a country they will one day lead and there has been no legislation about their health and wellbeing since 2010.


“The new Prime Minister must stop the rot and appoint a Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People who will ensure that their needs are at the heart of policy in all Government Departments. Pilot schemes and locally commissioned ‘projects’ are poor excuses for decisive national leadership at a time of national emergency.”