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Labour ‘wont stand by while children become fatter’, Streeting says, in defence of ‘nanny state’ reforms | Politics News


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Labour said it won’t stand by “while children become fatter and unhealthier” as it defended its healthcare plans against “nanny state” accusations.

The Opposition party plans to introduce supervised toothbrushing for young children in free breakfast clubs if it wins the next general election.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting brushed off criticism that the party is seeking to create a “nanny state” on child health.

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Speaking to broadcasters on a visit to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, he said: “If the Conservatives want to throw around silly labels like ‘nanny state’, and then they’re going to throw much more mud than that in the run up to the election, I don’t think the public are going to buy that after 14 years of their failure.

“We’re not going to sit idly by while tooth decay sees so many children admitted to hospital.”

Talking about plans to reduce junk food ads and children vaping, he added: “We’re not going to sit idly by while children become fatter, more unhealthy, less happy; we’re going to take action on behalf of children across our country and I think that’s something parents across the land will support.”

Labour previously said it would bring in supervised toothbrushing in schools for children aged three to five, as well as an extra 700,000 dentist appointments, if it wins the election.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer (centre right), with shadow health secretary Wes Streeting (centre left) speaking during a visit to Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool, to unveil their Child Health Action Plan. Picture date: Thursday January 11, 2024.
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Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer (centre right), with shadow health secretary Wes Streeting (centre left) speaking during a visit to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

But the announcement drew criticism from teaching unions, with leaders saying it is “not the role of teachers to be making sure children brush their teeth each day”.

The party has now honed in on the detail of the plans, saying the “targeted” national supervised toothbrushing programme would be rolled out in “fully funded breakfast clubs”.

The clubs, funded by abolishing the non-dom tax status, will be introduced in every primary school so “every child is able to start the day with a healthy breakfast and parents are able to get to work”, Labour said.

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Other aspects of Labour’s child health action plan include introducing a 9pm watershed for junk food ads and banning vape adverts aimed at children.

The party has also pledged to introduce specialist mental health support for children in every school, cut waiting times for hospital care for children and to make sure child health is a cross-government priority.

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Sir Keir Starmer said children were “probably the biggest casualty” of the Tories’ sticking-plaster approach to politics over the past 14 years and that if the government were a parent, it could be charged with neglect.

His party have highlighted international research which shows British children are now shorter, fatter and less happy than their counterparts – with experts suggesting a poor national diet and austerity measures are stunting their growth.

Meanwhile tooth decay is still the most common reason for hospital admission in children aged between 6 and 10 years.

Sir Keir said tooth decay, stunted growth and a stalling life expectancy are “the reality of Tory Britain” and he is ready to make the case for state intervention to turn that around.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the Alder Hey visit the Labour leader said: “We need to take on this question of the nanny state. The moment you do anything on children’s health, people say ‘you’re going down the road of a nanny state’. We want to have that fight.”

He added: “Healthy, happy children is not a nice to have, it’s a basic right, with economic urgency.”

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