Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Being Young Today Isn't Child's Play; ONE of the Region's Best-Loved Charities Is This Week Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary. Children's Foundation Founder Sir Al Aynsley Green Is Proud of Its Legacy but Tells Ken Oxley That the UK Is Lagging Behind Other Countries When It Comes to Childhood Health and Wellbeing

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Being Young Today Isn't Child's Play; ONE of the Region's Best-Loved Charities Is This Week Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary. Children's Foundation Founder Sir Al Aynsley Green Is Proud of Its Legacy but Tells Ken Oxley That the UK Is Lagging Behind Other Countries When It Comes to Childhood Health and Wellbeing

Article excerpt

HE may have a knighthood and countless other accolades to his name, but miner's son Sir Al Aynsley Green also takes great pride in his Northumbrian roots.

Sir Al was born in Northumberland and spent the first 10 years of his life here, and though he moved away, he has strong links with the region and has returned often.

Today the former children's commissioner - and president elect of the British Medical Association - will be a guest of honour in Newcastle as 25 years of the Children's Foundation and its Yellow Brick Road appeal are celebrated.

It was Sir Al's vision that gave birth to the charity and whilst he hasn't lived in the region since a spell working at Newcastle University, he remains in touch with the charity's key staff.

Its mission - to help children have happy, healthy, safe lives - has not changed. However, the challenges it faces to realise its goals have. And when it comes to discussing those challenges, Sir Al pulls no punches.

"The evidence shows that the UK - and England in particular - is one of the most child-unfriendly countries in the developed world," he says.

"If you look at all the aspects of children's lives and examine the hard data for health, education, social care and their experiences in the youth justice system, you will find we have some of the worst outcomes.

"The inconvenient truth that needs to be spelled out is that whilst we have countless wonderful children and young people, all is far from well for too many of them compared with those in neighbouring, equally wealthy countries."

This will come as a shock to many. But Sir Al's experiences travelling the world and examining how political and social values differ make him ideally placed to draw such conclusions. He is not alone, either and indeed much of what he is saying is backed by the British Medical Association's recent report, Growing Up in the UK.

Sir Al cites the lack of awareness of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) as an example of how the UK Turn to Page 20 From Page 19 is lagging behind other countries over child health.

He says: "In Canada, they are totally persuaded that exposure to alcohol before birth is the single most important preventable cause of learning disabilities, brain damage, poor behaviour and even criminality - and are spending huge sums of money on prevention and supporting mothers and children.

"But here in the UK, we are simply not doing enough to raise awareness of the dangers of consuming alcohol when pregnant or doing enough to support mothers-to-be to help them make informed choices.

"And I am afraid that is all part of a culture in which children's issues are not deemed to be important."

An issue even closer to home for Sir Al is the "patchy at best" provision of services for children coping with bereavement in the UK.

He lost his own father - unexpectedly following complications during a routine operation - at the age of 10, just one year after the family had uprooted and moved to Surrey.

At the time, the young Al was also having to cope with playground bullies poking fun at his "funny accent". Against the odds, he got into grammar school and was determined to become a doctor, motivated by a desire to save lives so that other children would not have to go through the trauma he endured at so young an age.

He believes that it is because he has first-hand experience of childhood bereavement and bullying that he is able to relate so well to today's children facing the same issues. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.