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Early reflections on Social Justice Conference

30 October 2013

In our fourth and final blog for the GovKnow Social Justice Conference, Director for England, Dharmendra Kanani, reflects on his keynote speech and how strategic investments in England are targeting those most in need.

Acting early does not mean just acting early in life. So says Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davis, and is a sentiment that underpins all our strategic investments in England.

Dharmendra Kanani with finalists for The Big Lottery Fund Community Award

Dharmendra Kanani with finalists for The Big Lottery Fund Community Award, presented at the Social Justice Conference

Today, I had the pleasure of speaking at the second annual Social Justice Conference. At last year’s event, I was proud to launch A Better Start, our strategic investment aimed at delivering a step change in early intervention approaches to improve life chances of babies and young children across England.

This year I had the opportunity to update delegates on the progress we’ve made, including that the Chief Medical Officer recently welcomed our approach in her recent ‘Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays’ report.

This is great news, but what about children of an older age who are at an equally significant and formative stage of life where they are laying down physical, emotional and psychological foundations? We know that young people are facing an increasing range of pressures associated with modern life.

Some are more likely to affect children in areas of high deprivation, or who are vulnerable anyway, if, for instance, they come under peer or sibling pressure to get involved in crime or anti-social behaviour. That’s why we will soon be officially launching our fifth and final strategic investment, responding to feedback from young people, who urged us to fund work to boost resilience to mental health problems in adolescence.

Our investment is designed to improve young people’s resilience by giving them the support and skills to cope with adversity.

Adolescence is a critical period of vulnerability for developing mental health problems. The statistics are worrying.

  • Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years.
  • One in 10 young people – so three in every classroom – has a clinically diagnosable mental health problem (Young Minds).
  • And rates of mental health problems increase during adolescence.

Learning is key to this and all of our strategic investments. We are determined to learn, determined to share and determined to make the maximum improvement for individuals and communities most in need.

We want you to work with us to instil a real sense of momentum in tackling these needs – a better start for babies; for young people struggling to navigate the challenges they face or with youth unemployment; for adults with a wide range of multiple and complex needs; and helping people to live rewarding lives in later years. We want to fulfil lives, to support successful communities and enrich the spaces and places our communities call home through real People Powered Change.

Dharmendra Kanani spoke at the Govknow Social Justice Conference 2013. Visit our website to view a copy of his presentation slides.

What do you think of his blog? Leave your comments below or join the conversation on Twitter using #sjconf2013 and #biglf.

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