Children as old as three are unable to walk because they have spent so much time being pushed around in buggies and left in front of the television, a senior government adviser has warned.
Louise Casey is overseeing Cameron’s new Troubled Families scheme
Louise Casey, the head of the David Cameron’s troubled families unit, said the problem was indicative of the challenges faced in tackling Britain’s 120,000 most troubled families.
She raised the issue at a meeting of cross-party groups on Sure Start children’s centres and child protection, at Westminster last week, according to the Sunday Times.
“They are so used to being put in a buggy in front of the telly … and one of them could not chew,” she said, admitting that efforts to help such families had largely failed.
“Will any of these things touch those families?” she asked. “The answer is they haven’t done yet.”
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, told the newspaper: “It’s an extreme case, but more frequently we hear of children who can’t speak when they come to school, they can only grunt.
“There are also children still in nappies at the age of four or five. This, and not being able to speak, are the two most common complaints.”
The UK’s 120,000 problem families cost taxpayers an estimated £9 billion in benefits, crime, anti-social behaviour and health care. A fifth of them have more than five children.
Miss Casey is leading a scheme to turn their lives around after they were blamed for last year’s riots.
Families who refuse help will be threatened with sanctions such as losing their council housing, having their children put into care or anti-social behaviour orders which, if breached, can lead to prison.
Miss Casey has travelled the country and has analysed the problems of 16 of the worst families, who cost the state up to £200,000 each a year.
She said last year: “Yes, we have to help these families. But I also don’t think we should soft-touch those families. We are not running some cuddly social workers’ programme to wrap everybody in cotton wool.”
Anne Milton, the former public health minister, warned in 2011 that parents should make their children walk rather than strapping them into buggies.
“We have to acknowledge childhood obesity is a growing problem,” she said.
“While local authorities have a part to play it is ultimately the responsibility of parents and carers.
“By taking steps such as encouraging children to walk to school, to eat healthily, or stop using buggies on short trips at the age of three, they can help ensure their children lead an active life.”