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Children's mental health 'hit by cuts', teachers warn

AUSTERITY measures and cuts in public sector spending are affecting the physical and mental health of the region’s children, teachers have warned.

AUSTERITY measures and cuts in public sector spending are affecting the physical and mental health of the region’s children, teachers have warned.

A survey of teachers has found 78% believe funding cuts have had a negative impact on some or most of their pupils and families.

The YouGov poll, commissioned by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), revealed children from lower income families have been the hardest hit.

Ian Grayson, NUT national executive member for Tyne and Wear, said: “These findings are very worrying and the North East region is one of the worst affected in the country, because we’ve been hit by more significant spending cuts than elsewhere. Children from poorer families really feel the impact of the cuts because they may not have the heating on at home, which means they have a bad night’s sleep and they might not have breakfast before going to school because their parents can’t afford it.

“These all add up to pupils becoming stressed or anxious and not being able to concentrate in class, which makes teachers’ jobs even harder.”

He added: “There has also been a significant drop in the morale of the region’s teachers due to the cuts on resources, but also because of the new initiatives and demands being placed on them by the Government.”

The survey coincides with another new report which reveals more than one in 10 young people in the North East feel they cannot cope with day-to-day life.

The Prince’s Trust Youth Index shows that young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) are significantly more likely to feel unable to cope than their peers.

The report – based on interviews with 16 to 25-year-olds – also shows how almost one in five young people living in the region did not have someone to talk to about their problems while they were growing up. Jonathan Townsend, regional director of the Prince’s Trust in the north of England, said: “A frightening number of unemployed young people in the North East feel unable to cope and it is particularly tough for those who don’t have a support network in place.

“We know at the Prince’s Trust that it is often those from the most vulnerable backgrounds who end up furthest from the job market.

“Life can become a demoralising downward spiral ... from a challenging childhood into life as a jobless adult. But, with the right support, we can help get these lives on track across the region.”

Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West and shadow minister for children and families, said: “These surveys paint a depressing picture of life for families in 2013 under this out-of-touch Government.

“Instead of rubbishing teachers, ministers should listen to the voice of those at the chalkface who are seeing the impact of this Government’s policies on the lives and life chances of children and young people, such as increasing hunger and anxiety.

“It is also no surprise so many young people are stressed or depressed at a time when long-term youth unemployment is rocketing and support for staying on in education has been slashed.”

The research comes at a time when long-term youth unemployment in the region has been on the rise, with the region seeing a 400% increase since the beginning of the recession.

A spokesman for Family Lives, a North East-based national parenting charity, added: “The Government needs to be doing more to support families otherwise we risk bringing up a generation of young people who have mental health problems.”



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