University of Sussex students call on UK Government to improve key areas of child rights ahead of UN review
By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Monday, 29 March 2021
Two University of Sussex students have co-authored a new report calling on the UK Government to do more to limit inequality in maternity services and to invest in more mental health support for adolescents.
Emma Beeden and Ray Everall have co-authored a report alongside two other members of the NHS Youth Forum for the UN committee on the Rights of the Child. They were consulted by the National Network of Designated Healthcare Professionals about the NNDHP’s report concerning the review on the health and wellbeing of children in the UK and then given the opportunity to contribute their own report alongside.
The report highlights the concerns and views of forum members regarding child rights in the UK ahead of the scheduled review of the UK by the UN committee on the Rights of the Child later this year.
Emma and Ray are part of the 25-strong NHS Youth Forum panel of young people aged between 14 and 25 which represents young people’s interests on key health issues. The forum works directly with NHS England, Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care.
In the report, second year Childhood and Youth Studies student Emma detailed the challenges still facing the UK around infant mortality, maternal death in childbirth and adolescent mortality.
She highlighted figures which indicate more than 1,000 excess annual infant deaths in the UK compared to other developed countries and detailed how a mother’s ethnicity can drastically increase the likelihood of infant mortality.
Emma also highlighted the rising adolescent mortality rates in the UK and how the Coronavirus pandemic has seen a rapid increased in the number of youth suicides.
The report calls on the Government to put more attention into social factors such as housing, food and education in order to reduce the unacceptable levels of infant mortality as well as increasing mental health services, support and the number of trained professionals to support adolescents.
Emma said: “Infant mortality and mental health still remain taboo subjects within the UK. Our report clearly shows that the UK still has a lot of work to do in these vitally important areas to ensure that all citizens receive the level of support and care they need from the very start and then throughout childhood and adolescence to ensure they can grow up with a positive well-being.”
Ray Everall, who is studying Anthropology and Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex, contributed two chapters to the report on health & well-being and gender identity.
He highlights the cuts to youth services that have been made over the past decade and a failure of other organisations to recognise academic pressure as one of the most pressing issues for children and young people combined with a stifling of opportunities to be creative in the current education system.
Ray also called for every child to have the right to receive intersectional sex education and criticised the current parental opt-out for sexual education which meant that the most vulnerable children and young people often do not receive the necessary sexual health education.
His chapters also highlight concerns around the rising levels of hostility and transphobia and waiting times for gender identity development services (GIDS) that currently significantly exceed NHS guidelines.
Ray said: “On key issues such as trans rights, adolescent mental health and sex education, the situation in the UK for many young people is deteriorating at an alarming rate. We need to see action and progress in these areas as a priority.
“Specifically, the UN committee on the Rights of the Child and the UK Government must ensure that transgender and gender variant children and young people are explicitly protected in every capacity so that we are able to live our lives freely without fear.”