Children at breaking point: Knives, guns, bullies...a shocking look at growing up in today's UK
The rights of a generation of children in Britain are being eroded by poverty, unhappiness and fear of crime, the largest report on the state of childhood in six years reveals.
More than 78 per cent of children surveyed said they get stressed, mainly because of school tests and exams. One in 10 children never enjoys school.
By the age of 16, children will have sat at least 70 tests. Some 13 per cent say bullying is an issue, and 4.2 per cent say the problem is so great that they have never felt safe in school. Gay, Traveller and ethnic-minority children most often report being bullied.
Nearly 75 per cent said their school only listened to their opinions sometimes, while 5.5 per cent said they were never listened to. One in 10 children thought their teachers did not respect them, while the same proportion felt other children did not respect them. The reports call for student councils in every school.
Law and order
A shocking 12 per cent of children said they had carried a knife or gun in the past 12 months. A third of those did so to protect themselves, but 22.6 per cent did so to threaten or hurt someone.
Half of children believed children in their area committed crimes because they were bored.
The UNCRC requires that children be imprisoned as a "very last resort". Yet the charities state that nearly 25,000 children in England and Wales were given custodial sentences between 2003 and 2006. "The law has been changed to introduce punishment as an explicit purpose of sentencing for children," the report says. It condemns the "deeply punitive and abusive" treatment of children and calls for a full public inquiry into the deaths in custody of 30 children since 1990.
It condemns the use of terms such as "yobs" and "thugs" to describe children, in newspapers but also Government press releases and ministerial speeches.
Health and wellbeing
One in 10 children have a clinically recognisable mental health disorder.
A third of children say there are not enough local play areas. Some 82 per cent found broken glass, 50 per cent found condoms and 25 per cent hypodermic needles in parks and playgrounds. Four out of 10 say their local play facilities had closed down, while half were stopped from playing outside by their parents.
Refugee children say they are often unable to find translators or advocates to help them in doctors' surgeries. And the lack of enough safe, well-staffed shelters and hostels meant that depressed and self-harming children often had nowhere to turn for help.
Families and care
Both the charities and children call for an outright ban on smacking. Some 14.6 per cent were hit at home, while one in 20 children fear being hurt by people at home.
The charities' report warns of a 14-year difference in the life expectancy between children born into the richest and poorest households. In London alone, 41 babies would be saved each year were it not for poverty and inequality. Social mobility in the UK is "no better now than it was in the 1970s". The UNCRC requires governments to give positive support to parents, yet they are being penalised "more than ever" for their children's behaviour.
It warns of "massive erosion" in the privacy rights of children since 2002. The police hold DNA samples of up to 360,000 children, 82,000 of whom are innocent. Many nurseries and schools use electronic equipment to monitor children's behaviour.
Discrimination and choices
More than nine out of 10 children think they are judged on what they wear, while some 78.2 per cent believe the media paints an unfair picture of young people.
The report warns that asylum-seeking and refugee children do not get the same levels of child protection as other vulnerable children. While there is a battle to detain terror suspects for 42 days without charge, asylum- seeking families are detained for weeks and months without any judicial scrutiny.
Carolyne Willow, Crae's national co-ordinator, said: "We, and the Government, have to face the fact that human rights abuses don't just happen to adults, they happen to children – and they are happening in our country."
Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of the Children's Society, said: "Both the young people's report and the report from the coalition of children's charities highlight many breaches of children's rights that require urgent action."