“Achieving these outcomes has benefits for children, families, and society as a whole. Children gain through improved health, wellbeing and prosperity now and in the future. Future generations benefit as we know that children of parents who experienced poverty, were in public care, or teenage parents are more likely to experience poor outcomes than their peers. Society as a whole benefits through reduced spending on problems that can be avoided and through maximising the contribution to society of all citizens. For instance, a child with a conduct disorder at age 10 will cost the public purse around £70,000 by age 28 – up to ten times more than a child with no behavioural problems. The overall cost of providing foster and residential care placements for 60,000 children is £2.2 billion per year.” (Green Paper of 2003)
Such reforms make sense if we take a look at the recent history of childcare in Britain. Although the overall quality of health-care for children had improved in the last few decades the pace at which these improvements take place do not match the newer demands. For example, though the overall prosperity of the nation had increased during this period, the percentage of children living in poverty had not changed by any significant degree. The number of children facing uncertainties and serious risks has also not diminished. Some of this high-risk behaviour on part of children includes premature sexual activity, addiction to drugs and alcohol, etc. The fact that the divorce rates have steadily climbed during this period had worsened the condition of children as there are now more children living with single parents than there were ever in the history of Britain. There are numerous studies that back the assertion that children growing up in dysfunctional families are more prone to psychological afflictions in their adulthood. In this scenario, the Every Child Matters program offers some solid and pragmatic solutions to turn around this trend.
Child Protection measures of the last half century have always met with limited success. Despite awareness campaigns undertaken by the governments of the day, teenage smoking rates have not decreased greatly. The obesity levels among children aged 6 and 15 actually had risen in recent years. Teenage pregnancy rate was lower in 2001 than it was in 1998, yet, UK has the notorious distinction of having one of the highest teenage conception rates among countries in Western Europe.
During the early 1990’s the number of children in care rose by nearly 20 percent. This was a disturbing trend. So was the number of lawsuits filed by parents against care-givers on grounds of negligence. In absolute terms the total figure rose from 40,000 children in care to 60,000 in a span of a decade. During the same period the children involved in juvenile delinquency cases fell, but only marginally. Given such a record on Child-care and child protection, the Every Child Matters program was a much awaited initiative. However, it remains to be seen how efficacious some of its proposals would turn out to be. (Green Paper of 2003)
In the educational front too, the results have not been very bright for some time now. Proficiency in English language and Mathematics had increased across all age groups. But it is important to note that the results are not consistent across different ethnic backgrounds. For example, Chinese and Indian students outperform Black and Pakistani students. To be fair, this anomaly is a reflection of cultural preferences of these distinct ethnic groups and not so much a testimony to the standards of British education. Another area of concern is the child participation levels in charitable and community service activities. The statistics at face value may look impressive, with nearly 50 percent of youth having partaken in various fundraising events. But behind this façade is the fact that many children participate in these activities out of peer pressure and compulsion and not out of genuine compassion toward the underprivileged. This condition is largely due to the consumerist culture of modern Britain.