Family Matters: Campaigner makes bid to mark Children’s Day

NSPCC Sheffield launch both their Children's Day and Go Green campaign at their headquarters in Sheffield. From left, chairman Nikki Sharpe, director of childline Peter Liver and president Julie Kenny
NSPCC Sheffield launch both their Children's Day and Go Green campaign at their headquarters in Sheffield. From left, chairman Nikki Sharpe, director of childline Peter Liver and president Julie Kenny
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So what are you doing to celebrate Children’s Day next Wednesday?

Never heard of it? Neither had Sheffield lawyer and children’s campaigner Nikki Sharpe and she’s decided to do something about it.

Nikki, who is also a Labour member of Sheffield City Council, set up a social enterprise, Youth Can Achieve, in 2009 to provide long-term motivation to vulnerable young people. She is also chair of Sheffield NSPCC.

She discovered by accident that the United Nations had made a resolution back in 1954 that countries around the world including the UK signed up to.

The idea was for each country to launch its own Children’s Day, with the intention of highlighting children’s welfare.

Nikki found that 49 countries have done this. In some, like Australia, the day is also a public holiday, although it’s not held on November 20.

She was shocked when she contacted the Children’s Commissioner and found that the day was marked here – but only as a focal point for getting work experience for youngsters.

She said: “I wrote to the Prime Minister and asked him why don’t we have a Children’s Day? I got a reply saying, ‘keep up the good work’.”

She added: “There have been other organisations that have tried to start it up in the past but never got anywhere. That didn’t sit right with me.

“We’re the fifth wealthiest country with 3.5 million children living in poverty, Government figures show.

“This year 80,000 children will be homeless at Christmas, according to Shelter.”

Nikki decided that Sheffield was as good a place as any to start up the campaign and she called a conference in the city next Wednesday to get the ball rolling.

She said:

“We’ve got Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as they are important people in a family. Don’t the children in a family count somewhere along the line?

“Our record on neglect in this country is not good. We all know about Baby P and what happened there and about similar cases.

“We all know that’s not going to be the end and we know there will be other children as well and other neglect cases going on.

“We’ve seen the erosion of the budget around children’s services and nationally what the Government has done in terms of making cuts.

“The aspiration of young people is at an all-time low..

“I decided we should start off and have the debate around this conference.”

Although Nikki stresses that many organisations do amazing work with children and young people, she believes that children and young people are not given the voice they deserve.

She invited a number of child experts to speak at the event and her aim is to use the conference to launch a campaign for Children’s Day UK to become a reality. She wants children and young people to become involved as well to say what they want.

The NSPCC is supporting the event and is launching its own Go Green Day next Wednesday, to raise awareness of the problems children in Sheffield are facing and raise funds to help tackle them.

The charity is asking people to run fundraising events featuring the colour green on the day.

Conference speakers include Maxine Greaves, the equality and community engagement manager at Sheffield Hallam University. She received an MBE for her work with Sure Start children’s centres.

Sarah Robertshaw, from Prepare to Foster, is talking about a child-centred approach to helping couples, families and individuals understand more about foster care.

Beth Stout will speak about the work of the Gold Digger Trust, a charity focused on effective work with vulnerable young people.

The trust delivers intervention courses and trains other organisations to do the same. It believes in empowering young people with key skills.

The conference runs from 10.30am to 1pm at the Leopold Hotel in Leopold Street. For more information, go online to conference.childrensday.co.uk The event is free, thanks to sponsorship from the venue, and anyone interested is welcome to attend.