More British youth have had sex, taken drugs, been in fights or fallen-over drunk then anywhere else in the developed world. MP Roger Gale is as worried as anyone, describing as "sad but unsurprising" the findings of a United Nations report on the conditions and circumstances of young people.
The MP, the chairman of the TryAngle Awards Foundation which celebrates the achievements of young people, said:
"Every year, in a programme that is now rolling out nationwide, we applaud and recognise the good things that are achieved by the young people of Kent and beyond. And every year our judges read through harrowing tales of the difficult circumstances that have to be overcome by some of those young people. The work of young carers, particularly, needs to be better recognised.
Young people are entitled to a childhood and an adolescence but far too many find themselves having to grow up and to face challenges and even parenthood that ought, properly, to be the work of mature adults.
Every Member of Parliament deals regularly with what are, essential, social work cases of poor housing, poverty and, most particularly, neglect and it is the latter that is more serious and more damaging than the former.
Arguably, most people are materially better off and better housed than they have been for generations, even at the bottom end of the scale. But the breakdown of the extended family unit, the latch-key approach to life taken by working parents and a lack of recognised and enforced social boundaries have led inevitably to a generation that are significantly and through no real fault of their own aimless and rudderless.
Those working with young people continually hear the cry, in defence of anti-social behaviour, that "there's nothing for us to do". In fact, there is a wealth of opportunity but without care, affection, respect and direction we should not be surprised that young people resort to drink and drugs and petty crime.
In our work as MPs we see young people passed from pillar to post, unwanted and unloved and regarded mainly as a source of enhanced allowances and benefit.
If we want to get to the root of what is certainly a very real problem then some "politically correct" attitudes are going to have to go out of the window and we are going to have to work - all of us - to get back to some clear boundaries and to some responsibilities as well as "rights". And all of us does mean all of us: this is not something that can just be left to "them" - the police, social workers and teachers. We are responsible for our children and our grandchildren and we must all be held responsible for their care."