Keir Starmer has said he is “up for the fight” of defending the “nanny state” as he announced plans to improve child health under a Labour government, including supervised toothbrushing in schools.
The leader of the Labour party stated that kids were likely the most affected by the Conservative party’s short-term approach to politics in the last 14 years. They went on to say that if the government were a caregiver, they could possibly be accused of neglect.
“I am aware that we must address the issue of the nanny state,” he stated to journalists prior to his visit to a pediatric hospital. “Any action taken towards improving child health is often met with accusations of promoting a nanny state. However, we are prepared to confront this challenge.”
Starmer, in his piece for the Guardian, stated that there has been an increase in unhealthy children, with 40% of primary school graduates being overweight. The most concerning issue, however, is that the top reason for young children being hospitalized is to remove decayed teeth. This is due to the difficulty in accessing NHS dental care before tooth decay develops.
“After 14 years of the Conservative party’s rule, it is astounding that the increase in life expectancy has come to a halt.”
In the past thirty years, the average height of five-year-old girls in Britain has dropped by 27 spots in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rankings, while boys have fallen by 33 spots. Additionally, the UK has a higher number of overweight children compared to France, Germany, Poland, and Slovenia. Furthermore, there are approximately 250,000 British children currently on waiting lists for mental health services.
The plan put forth by Labour includes implementing a 9pm cutoff for unhealthy food advertisements, prohibiting vape advertisements targeted towards children, providing free breakfast clubs in all primary schools, improving access to mental health resources, reducing wait times for pediatric hospital care, and ensuring more dental appointments are available.
Starmer stated that his proposals, which would be implemented during the initial period of a Labour administration, were only the initial measures necessary to enhance the well-being of young people in Britain. He acknowledged that this would be a gradual process and did not claim that significant changes could be made within a short period of time.
The leader of the Labour party plans to make biweekly trips across the country to explain the specifics of his five objectives for governing. He believes that supervised tooth-brushing should be implemented for children ages three to five, as the primary reason for hospital admissions before the age of 10 is tooth decay.
“I do not believe it is appropriate to dismiss this issue by saying ‘it’s none of our concern.’ The well-being of the child is our concern. Furthermore, when a child is hospitalized, it incurs significant costs for the taxpayer,” he stated.
I am not implying that the responsibility solely lies with the state or parents. It is a combination of both. However, some may argue that it is not our duty to worry about six- to 10-year-olds being hospitalized due to tooth decay. I am ready to stand up for that cause.
He stated that those who oppose government interference must clarify their plans for reducing taxes, as the cost of healthcare will not decrease if children continue to experience tooth issues requiring hospitalization.
Under Labour’s plans, which Starmer said were fully costed, there would be mental-health support provided in every school, community mental-health hubs aimed at under-25s and 8,500 new mental-health professionals recruited.
Geoff Barton, the head of the Association of School and College Leaders, expressed support for the proposals. However, he emphasized the importance of proper resources, including adequate staffing and funding, to ensure that these promises are put into action. He also called for clear expectations to be set for schools, healthcare providers, and parents.
NAHT’s general secretary, Paul Whiteman, stated that while Labour’s emphasis and suggestions for increased mental health assistance are appreciated, it should be acknowledged that a substantial amount of funding will be needed to reconstruct the deteriorated health and support services of the past ten years.
Eddie Crouch, chairman of the British Dental Association, stated that supervised brushing has proven to be an effective strategy, as shown by the government’s own data. It is concerning that tooth decay continues to be the primary cause of hospitalizations for young children. Not only is prevention more effective than treatment, but it is also more cost-efficient.