Howarth leads debate to protect bullied youngsters

July 6, 2009 1:31 PM

Red Balloon logoMP David Howarth is to lead a Parliamentary debate on bullying as fears grow that vulnerable youngsters could "fall through the net".

Mr Howarth is pushing the government to ensure adequate funds are available to help children who stay away from school because they are the targets of bullies. These children and young people are some of society's most vulnerable.

He has called the debate at Westminster Hall on Wednesday (July 8) after meeting with leading Cambridge charity, Red Balloon.

The charity, which offers full-time placements to bullied youngsters, is concerned after Cambridgeshire County Council changed the way in which it funds places for these children in its recovery centre.

Until recently, children and young people were referred to the charity with funding coming directly from the county council. But now the money is given to individual schools and head teachers must decide how it is best spent to help each particular child.

Nationally, around 6,000 children a year drop out of school because of bullying and there are several suicides each year as a result. Half of those students referred to Red Balloons have seriously considered or attempted suicide.

A government White Paper, Back on Track, calls for early interaction, social support and working closely with parents to address the issue. Red Balloon maintains, however, that it is already doing this but fears that, unless head teachers use its services, funding could dry up.

Mr Howarth said: "This is a crucially important issue where young lives are at stake. Red Balloon is doing excellent work in Cambridge, as well as Norwich and London, to help these children and it is vital that those that need its help are referred so that it can maintain its funding.

"Without the specialist help from charities like Red Balloon, vulnerable youngsters could easily fall through the net.

"Schools are working well to adopt anti-bullying measures, but head teachers must take positive action when a case of bullying is identified to make sure that the child gets the proper support.

"I am optimistic that this debate will highlight these issues and hope that the government will take positive action to address them."

Red Balloon Chief Executive, Carrie Herbert says: "I am delighted that David Howarth is raising the issue of the plight of self-excluded bullied children.

"These children, who have dropped out of school because they can't bear the constant bullying, many of whom are depressed or even suicidal, aren't being educated and face a bleak future. At a relatively low cost, this small but significant group of citizens could be recovered. The debate will, I hope, ensure that this problem is recognised."

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