Sharon Hodgson speaking at the launch of the Honeypot Campaign For Children Who Care - 22nd March 2016
Image copyright Honeypot Campaign
As Shadow Minister for Children, Sharon was invited to speak at the launch of Honeypot Campaign's 'For Children Who Care' which is campaigning to provide respite services to young carers, especially those between the ages of 5 and 12 who Honeypot work with, so that they can have the childhood that they deserve along with addressing many of the health and educational disadvantages they may face.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
Thank you for having me here today.
As the Shadow Minister for Children, I am all too aware of the challenges faced by young carers - both when I was in this role in the previous Parliament and even before that when I raised many concerns from the backbenches.
For me, the underlying philosophy I have as Labour’s spokesperson for children is that: all children, no matter what their background or circumstances, should have a childhood that is nurturing and full of opportunities so they become well-rounded adults in later life.
Everyone in this room knows that being the main care giver for a loved one at any stage of their life is tough, but for a child it can be even more so when it impacts on their ability to enjoy the same kind of childhood as their peers, and also, in far too many cases, define how the rest of their life will pan out.
Evidence has shown that young carers have significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE, which is equivalent to nine grades overall lower than their peers at the same age, and these children also see a toll on their health, wellbeing and personal development.
With over 160,000 young carers in the UK - with many more estimated by the University of Nottingham which believe the number stands closer to 700,000 young carers – there is still a lot more we can do for this significant group of children and young people to support them in their childhood.
That is why I welcome the work of Honeypot which provides young carers the chance of a break from being a carer and gives those children a safe and nurturing environment so they can take part in being a child alongside their peers.
Last time I was in this job, I worked closely on the passing of the Children and Families Act which helped address some of the difficulties a young carer faces by placing a duty on local authorities to assess the needs of young carers. This was a welcome step forward in recognising that children who are primary care givers need that extra support in their lives from local agencies.
Yet, we can do more. That is why I hope Honeypot’s campaign to give children an entitlement to respite care will be received by the Government. This is a belief that I share with all of you here in the room today and through my role as Shadow Children’s Minister, I will use every available opportunity to raise this issue with the Government.
However, this is something I can’t do alone and I hope everyone here today will go away and write to their local Member of Parliament, or even speak to them if they are here today and lobby them about the need to raise awareness of respite care for young carers.
It is our duty to make sure we do all we can to help these children who do such an incredible loving act for their family and allow them that chance of a childhood filled with fun, joy and laughter.
Thank you and I hope you all have a lovely afternoon here in Parliament.