Archbishop warns of child crisis

Most Rev and the Rt Hon the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Williams.

Dr Rowan Williams

Children today face too much "pressure to achieve". Accountability is needed but in the form of trust, professionalism and dependability through professional values which would free up aspects of volunteering, would not load guilt on to parents and would allow realistic attitudes to risk including more time to grow – through play, by not withdrawing from the great outdoors and by providing support for all those who are trying to help in this very complex arena.

<http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/index.shtml?button>[link to BBC R4 Today interview with Dr  Williams  at 0810hrs 18.09.06]

Ian F. Lewis Campaign Coordinator <ian@campaignforadventure.org>

Statistics suggest one in 10 children had been shown to have measurable mental health problems, although the Department for Education and Skills said children "coped well" with tests.

“The whole educational system could be described as anxiety driven."  Dr Williams went on to outline the way society has evolved a form of professional anxiety which undermines schools, initiative-taking, parenthood, young peoples’ lives and particularly the willingness of people to volunteer – whether in structured giving of time or in broader opportunities to contribute to society.

While child protection laws were needed to safeguard children, they produced a "bureaucratic" maze that discouraged volunteers.  It is our duty to provide physically safe spaces, but the cost of our anxiety is a lack of freedom, experience and the opportunity for our children to grow up well and thrive.

Dr William’s comments were linked to the Children's Society enquiry announced today and its concern about a climate of "fear and confusion" among young people. The charity points to higher levels of depression and mental illness in the country than elsewhere in the European Union. Mr Reitemeier, from the society, said the inquiry would take about a year and a half, and would involve bringing together a panel of experts to look at particular themes in childhood. The inquiry is chaired by Professor Judith Dunn, a child development psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, and author of Children's Friendships: The Beginning of Intimacy.

People are encouraged to contribute their views on what makes for a good childhood in today's society. Evidence can be submitted on a secure site www.goodchildhood.org.uk or posting their thoughts to the Children's Society. The archbishop's comments come a week after dozens of teachers joined children's authors and psychologists to write a letter to the Daily Telegraph, in which they highlighted "the escalating incidence of childhood depression".

See this site for the Campaign for Adventure discussion group on risk, adventure and children growing up, from which a response to the Children’s Society will be collated.