News News Put children at the heart of the election, charities tell party leaders Children North East is joining more than a hundred charities across the country in a national campaign to persuade politicians of all parties to put children at the heart of the election. In an open letter to all party leaders, Children North East joins 146 other children's charities and organisations from around the UK, in asking them to set out how they will prioritise the needs of our youngest citizens in the next Parliament. "General elections are the moments when we debate and decide the nation's future and there is no greater investment that we, as a society, and you, as politicians, can make for our future prosperity than ensuring every child gets the best start in life," the letter states. Strengthening childhood builds a healthier society and a stronger economy. There are almost 14 million children in the UK but their voices are missing from the national conversation and far too little attention has been paid to their needs, particularly those of the most vulnerable. "Instead, the debate on Brexit means the issues affecting children are being crowded out of the national debate." Three calls to action The letter asks party leaders to commit to three actions: * Set out their party's priorities for vulnerable children. Parties must set out how they will protect children from challenges like online harm; serious youth violence and the criminal exploitation of children. * Put children at the front of the queue for investment. We know from our frontline experience that support from services and professionals can be crucial in helping children and families thrive, such as help for new parents to bond with their babies (which Children North East does through its NEWPIP service). England's Children's Commissioner says £10bn is needed to ensure all disadvantaged children get a chance to thrive. * Re-balance spending. We are spending more on the consequences of children ending up in crisis and less and less on preventing crisis in the first place. The next Government should ensure local authorities have the resources to run early intervention programmes which have been proven to work. Here at Children North East, we've been asking some of the young people we work with to tell us what they would do if they were Prime Minister. Suggestions included lowering university costs; increasing the amount of houses that use solar panels; annual mental health check-ups for teenagers and free travel for students. Kate Sandberg, a project worker at our Young People's Service, said the teenagers had enjoyed coming up with priorities. The young people liked the opportunity to have their say and be listened to. They were really keen to highlight the struggles they face as they said they feel under-represented in today's politics. Particularly in the older group, they felt like current politicians don't really get or understand the real struggles young people face, especially around poverty.