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The Red Book 2013: Children under pressure

In the twenty-first century, the state, communities and civil society need to work together. For the people Action for Children work with, life is turbulent. Over 91,000 children are in care across the UK and studies suggest as many as one in ten children are neglected. Children are faced with devastating adult issues such as family illness and separation. Added to this, they are continuing to deal with the impact of the recession and long standing inequalities.

There remains layer upon layer of challenges for people living without the basics that others take for granted. The cost of living for the poorest continues to outstrip income. The fluctuations in the national economy mean little or nothing to those who are just surviving.

For the first time since the 1940s, Action for Children is providing food, clothing and other items to families on a regular basis.

We are seeing a hardening of public attitudes towards welfare claimants, not only direct recipients but also the children of recipients.

In 2013, with the context of less money, a permanently reduced state and problems of vulnerable children and families worsening, the need for early support is stronger than ever. It must be local and it must be from a base that people can call their own. That means new kinds of relationships between services, professionals, citizens and local services to build capacity and resilience in communities. The voices of children and young people must be at the centre of this.

The voluntary sector can help to achieve this. The sector has great strengths: flexibility, our ability to innovate, independence and capacity to bring added value through volunteers; all that is underpinned by an adherence to values which keep us in the right place. We have a collective knowledge about what works, gleaned from investments in preventative approaches when finances allowed.

Although we all have a part to play, governments should lead the way. This Red Book sets out what they need to do.