Letters: our children are in crisis and need help

·8 min read
<span>Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The pandemic is having a devastating effect on the childhoods of children and young people across the country. Growing numbers of hard-pressed families are being swept into poverty, with more than 4 million children living in poverty even before Covid wrecked the economy. The closure of schools has widened the yawning education gap and the spiralling numbers of young people suffering mental illness and psychological distress look certain to increase with every day that lockdown keeps them isolated and uncertain about their futures.

These challenges are taking place just as the local services that children and their families rely on to keep them safe are reeling from the combined effect of more than £2bn in funding cuts over the last 10 years, coupled with unprecedented demand for their help.

Children’s welfare has become a national emergency. An independent commission, to inform a cross-government strategy to steer children and young people clear from the lingering effects of Covid-19, could avert this. This commission should bring together representatives from across the sector, including charities, school leaders, teaching unions, education experts, doctors and mental health professionals, as well as the children’s commissioner.

A strategy to protect children from the worst effects of the pandemic should build on the principles for recovery set out by leading children’s charities and must involve children, young people and parents in creating a vision for their futures. At present, we have piecemeal solutions and stopgap measures. The next generation deserves better.
Anna Feuchtwang, CEO, National Children’s Bureau and chair, End Child Poverty; Cathy Creswell, professor of developmental clinical psychology, University of Oxford; Jo Revill, CEO, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health; Melanie Armstrong, chief executive, Action for Children; Dr Marian Davis, GP and chair of the Adolescent Health Group at Royal College of General Practitioners; Kathy Evans, CEO, Children England; Emma Thomas, chief executive, YoungMinds; Peter Grigg, CEO, Home-Start UK; Mark Russell, CEO, The Children’s Society; Katharine Sacks-Jones, chief executive, Become; Joseph Howes, CEO, Buttle UK; Thomas Lawson, chief executive, Turn2Us; Niall Cooper, director, Church Action on Poverty; Dr Wanda Wyporska, executive director, The Equality Trust; Dr Lee Hudson, clinical associate professor, Great Ormond Street UCL Institute of Child Health; Leigh Middleton, CEO, National Youth Agency; Dr Marian Davis, GP and chair of the Adolescent Health Group at Royal College of General Practitioners; Dr Ronny Cheung, consultant paediatrician and clinical lead for State of Child Health programme, Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health; Dr Carol Homden, CEO, Coram Group; Essi Viding, professor of developmental psychopathology and co-director of Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit, division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London; professor Pasco Fearon, chair of Developmental Psychopathology, research department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London; Paul Bywaters, professor of social work, University of Huddersfield; Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, professor of psychology and cognitive neuroscience, University of Cambridge; Frances Mapstone, interim CEO, Just for Kids Law; Louise King, director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England; Dr Damian Roland, honorary associate professor in paediatric emergency medicine, Leicester University; Ann John, professor of public health and psychiatry, Swansea University, lead of the Adolescent Mental Health Data Platform; Helen Dodd, professor of child psychology, University of Reading; Tamsin Ford, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, University of Cambridge; Dr Bonamy Oliver, associate professor in developmental psychology, UCL Institute of Education; Thalia Eley, professor of developmental behavioural genetics, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London; Sally McManus, senior lecturer, School of Health Sciences, City University of London; Robin Banerjee, head of the school of pPsychology and professor of developmental pPsychology, University of Sussex; Sarah Halligan, professor of child and family mental health, University of Bath; Siobhan O’Neill, professor of Mental Health Sciences, Ulster University and interim mental health champion for Northern Ireland; Sam Cartwright-Hatton, professor of Clinical Child Psychology, University of Sussex; Dr Kathrin Cohen Kadosh, reader developmental cCognitive neuroscience, University of Surrey; Dr Nick Owen, CEO, The Mighty Creatives; Laura Payne, campaign manager, 4in10 – London’s Child Poverty Network; Willem Kuyken, Ritblat professor of mindfulness and psychological Science, University of Oxford; Angelica Ronald, professor of Psychology and Genetics and joint editor of Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, University of London; Dr Maria Loades, child and adolescent clinical psychologist and senior lecturer in clinical pychology and NIHR researchfellow, University of Bath; Sarah Hughes, CEO, Centre for Mental Health; Sir Norman Lamb, chair, Children & Young People’s Mental Health Coalition; Claire Donovan, campaigns manager, End Furniture Poverty; Jane Streather, chair, North East Child Poverty Commission; Monica Holton, CEO, The Loveinspire Foundation; Irene Audain, chief executive, Scottish Out of School Care Network; Andrew Copson, chief executive, Humanists UK; Julie Anderson, professor of modern history, University of Kent; Laurence Guinness, chief executive, The Childhood Trust; David Holmes, CEO Family Action; Becca Lyon, head of Child Poverty, Save the Children UK; Dr Robbie Duschinsky, head of the Applied Social Sciences Group, Primary Care Unit, University of Cambridge; June O’Sullivan, CEO London Early Years Foundation; Purnima Tanuku, chief executive, National Day Nurseries Association; Dr Xand van Tulleken, presenter of Operation Ouch; James Matheson, GP and chair of the Health Inequalities Group, Royal College of GPs; Alison Garnham, CEO, Child Poverty Action Group; Dr Elvira Pérez Vallejos, associate professor Mental Health and Technology, the University of Nottingham; The British Psychological Society

White gloves and Whitehorn

How I enjoyed reading the excerpt from the late, lamented Katharine Whitehorn’s Sluts column, even though I still have the original safely stashed away somewhere in my muddle of memorabilia (“Thank you, Katharine Whitehorn, for giving all the female reprobates a voice”, Comment). The references to black stockings and white gloves were poignant. As a young fashion editor myself, in awe of the Katharine I would spot at fashion shows, it was always white gloves that famous photographic models (who would get out of bed for a mere three guineas an hour in those days) were required to bring on fashion shoots.

Happy memories of a bygone age, beautifully chronicled in your pages over the years by a brilliant writer whose words, I hope, will be savoured by generations to come.
Jenny Froude
Beckenham, Kent

Putin played his part too

Andrew Rawnsley writes: “Mr Trump has done far more damage to trust in America’s system of government than Vladimir Putin’s battalions of cyber-agents ever managed” (“Tyrants gaze with glee at what Trump has done to American democracy”, Comment). However, it is questionable whether Trump would ever have been in a position to wreak such havoc without Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Robert Saunders
Balcombe, West Sussex

It’s all me, me, me

I wish I could share Will Hutton’s optimism about “I” ending and “we” returning (“The only way to vanquish the pandemic is for the age of national self-interest to end”, Comment). But I fear the age of “I” is too hard-baked into the DNA of too many. It will take a generation at least to dissolve it.

I speak from experience, having been part of the yuppie generation spawned and nurtured during the Thatcher era. I look back in shame and disbelief at how great swaths of us behaved. How possessions were accumulated with little reason other than the desire to show one’s wealth and status.

This government actively encourages the “I” society. We’ve had a brief glimpse of the “we” returning but it requires more than a handclap for our NHS. This is where Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Ed Davey need to pool their resources. There’s a world of “we” supporters waiting for leadership.
Michael Newman
Shefford, Bedfordshire

Treating Covid in Germany

Philip Oltermann’s article on integrative treatment of Covid-19 in German hospitals is biased against anthroposophic medicine but rightly highlights how complementary treatments are provided in addition to state-of-the-art conventional treatments, including for critically ill patients in the intensive care ward (“Ginger root and meteorite dust: that’s what Covid patients can expect in Rudolf Steiner clinics”, World). Anthroposophic medicine is fully integrated into the German healthcare system in line with the World Health Organization’s traditional medicine strategy that has set integration of traditional and complementary medicine into healthcare systems as a strategic goal.

There are many peer-reviewed studies on anthroposophic medicine and anthroposophic medications have been in use for decades, with an excellent safety record. Mr Oltermann’s critique that patients should provide consent for such treatments does not hold because the treatments are not experimental and are provided in addition to standard care, based on long clinical experience and in hospitals openly publicising their integrative medicine approach. As the article reports, German insurance companies pay flat-rate payments for hospital treatment of coronavirus patients; the additional anthroposophic treatments are financed out of hospital budgets.

Mr Oltermann links anthroposophic medicine with those who are anti-vaccination. While this might be true for certain individuals, a recent statement by the International Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Association (IVAA) welcomes the Sars-CoV2 vaccines and supports their rollout worldwide.
Thomas Breitkreuz and Tido von Schoen-Angerer, president and vice-president of the International Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Associations
Brussels

Remember George Lamming

The publishing project that draws attention to hitherto neglected black writers, led by the author Bernardine Evaristo, is to be applauded (“The lost novels of black Britain: Booker winner’s mission to put forgotten writers back in print”, News).

An almost forgotten black writer of great literary merit is George Lamming. He came to Britain in 1950 from the West Indies when he was 23. His first novel, In the Castle of My Skin, won the Somerset Maugham award for literature in 1957. Perhaps his most challenging and appropriate work for our post-colonial times was Natives of My Person. Lamming went on to have a fine academic career in the US and the West Indies, as well as publishing several other acclaimed works. He deserves greater recognition.
Peter Bunyan
Billericay, Essex