Childhood in Wales is changing, Wales’ services must change too

Three children sat on steps, one child has his head in his hands

Mae'r cynnwys hwn ar gael yn Saesneg yn unig.

New data from over 10,000 children and young people in Wales reveal the impact pressures of modern life are placing on their mental health.

WISERD Research Associate, Dr Rhian Barrance carried out the Beth Nawr, 2019 survey for the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, which collected data to help shape the Commissioner’s new three-year work plan.

The survey found that children as young as seven were worried about:

– 42% worried about school tests
– 40% worried about bullying
– 27% worried about family problems, including parental separation, and 38% had asked their parent to stop using their smartphone in their presence
“I get worried that my dad will leave our family again.” (Girl, 10)
“…because (parents) won’t listen to me or anything or attend to my needs when they are on their mobile phone.” (Girl, 10)

Young people, aged 11 – 18, were concerned about:

– 45% worried about school work / exams
– 40% worried about life after school
– 28% worried about the way they look and about mental health/wellbeing
“In general, I worry a lot about many things on a day-to-day basis.” (Girl, 14)

On most questions about worries or concerns, girls expressed higher levels of concern than boys, as did children from more materially deprived backgrounds than those from wealthier backgrounds.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said:

“I’ve heard the message loud and clear: the new pressures of modern life are impacting heavily on children, even our youngest citizens. We cannot continue with our established systems and pathways of support – we need mental health services and structures designed round children and their families’ needs. It makes no sense for children’s mental health teams and social services to be organised separately for families who need all the support they can get when their children are struggling with mental health difficulties. There must be no wrong door for children and their families needing support.

“What this tells us is that factors that could have a negative impact on our children’s mental health are everywhere. How we respond to this as adults is crucial.

The Commissioner’s team also surveyed 585 professionals working with children and young people:

– 86% of them were worried about the mental health of children
– 81% were worried about the effect of social media and
– 82% worried about family problems

Over 600 parents also took part and shared their top worries:

– 74% worry about mental health
– 68% worry about bullying
– 60% worry about the effect of social media.

Professor Holland added:

“Before surveying, I wanted to consider the national information which is already collected about children and young people. That review shows that some aspects of children’s lives are improving, including areas of health such as lower infant mortality, better dental health, less smoking and drinking and much lower rates of teenage pregnancy. But here are areas which remain a concern.

“All this work provides me, and other decision makers, with a broad picture of children’s lives. Having access to such detail about what children, young people and those care for them experience and worry about provides me with a very clear direction about what I need to do to enable all children and young people an equal chance to be the best that they can be.”

The Commissioner’s new three-year plan includes details of the team’s ambitions and specific areas of work, including shaping new ways of approaching mental health services for children and ensuring children and young people across the country are given meaningful opportunities to be informed, involved citizens.

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The full survey analysis and evidence review (also by Dr Rhian Barrance, see earlier news item) are available on our website.

The Commissioner’s three-year plan – A Plan for All Children and Young People, 2019 – 2022 – as well as the full survey analysis and evidence review can be accessed from