Action for Children at Liberal Democrat Conference

Posted by Chloe Hardy / Thursday 09 October 2014 / Early intervention

This year, Liberal Democrat Party Conference takes us to Glasgow. Fresh from the referendum on independence, people are still revved up from months of political debate. We’ve met taxi drivers, local delegates and fellow hotel guests still keen to talk politics at the drop of a hat – so Scotland seems a good place for even more discussion. For us, the subject is early action to help children and families, and we’re going for it with gusto.

Tony Hawkhead, our chief executive, leads the charge by speaking to everyone he can. Ministers, MPs, councillors, candidates, people from other organisations – there’s nowhere to hide! We are helped enormously by Fujitsu. As their charity partner for the year, they’ve offered us access to their VIP lounge, which means we have an easy place to track down and chat to delegates.

We’re particularly glad to have the opportunity to chat to Simon Hughes MP – the minister responsible for women’s prisons – about our award-winning Mother and Baby Unit at HMP Styal. We’ve offered him an invitation to visit, which he says he’s already planning to do, so we’ll keep you posted. The Styal project is a brilliant example of how acting early can help keep families together through even the toughest of challenges, a parent being in prison, and provide the support mothers need to build a good family life after they leave.

During the conference, Liberal Democrats voted to make mandatory reporting of known or suspected abuse official party policy. We’re delighted that there is so much recognition of the need to tackle abuse of children by both politicians and ordinary party members. But we believe reporting, whatever form it takes, is just part of the solution.

What would protect the most children is to ensure that people feel able to come forward with concerns at an early stage, safe in the knowledge that something will be done. The Government’s recently launched trial web portal will help with this, and we are pushing for a public awareness campaign to ensure members of the public know what to do if they are worried about a child.

In the meantime, we asking all of our supporters to bookmark the Government’s web portal page and tell their family and friends about it too.

Early support was a theme for all of the big children’s charities we met in Glasgow. Action for Children has teamed up with Barnardo’s, the Children’s Society, NSPCC and Save the Children to launch A Stitch in Time, our report calling on the next government to place a greater emphasis on early support services for children and their families. We were all raising this issue with the politicians we met and will keep doing so in the run up to the 2015 General Election.

Join the conversation.

Find out how you can become a campaigner, stay up to date with our latest tweets and join in the discussion on our blog.