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Body Confidence

Volume 604: debated on Thursday 14 January 2016

4. What steps the Government are taking to address the issue of low body confidence in girls and young men; and if she will make a statement. (903007)

Strong body confidence is obviously really important for both physical and mental health wellbeing. That is why the Government are working with partners on projects such as media literacy that equip young people to be resilient and realistic about body images that they see in print and on our screens.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. She will know that photographs in glossy magazines have been retouched by Photoshop, with little wrinkles smoothed out and little bulges slimmed in—in my case, of course, you see what you get—[Interruption.] Well, part of what you see is what you get, but we will not go into that. Does my hon. Friend agree that schools have a role to play in educating children in having realistic ideas about what is possible and what is not?

I entirely agree with you, Mr Speaker: there is almost nothing we could do to enhance the appearance of my hon. Friend—in my book, anyway.

My hon. Friend is right and his interest in this important issue is commendable. We want all young people to be informed and resilient. That is why we aim to improve media literacy. Our PSHE Association guidance on body image helps teachers to approach this topic sensitively and points them to the best quality-assured material. We also produce media-smart literacy resources for parents and teachers of primary school children to help them better to promote understanding of the images that young people see in the media.

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the cost of eating disorders to society is about £15 billion a year. What extra measures are the Government introducing, not only for prevention purposes but to support those who are currently experiencing eating disorders, in order to ensure that the problem is tackled adequately?

The hon. Gentleman is, of course, absolutely right: this is a key issue. We know that anorexia kills more than any other mental illness. On Monday, the Prime Minister set out our commitment to investing in mental health services. We will invest nearly £1 billion in a revolution in mental health treatment throughout the country, which will include the first-ever waiting time target for teenagers with eating disorders. They will be able to obtain help within a month of being referred, or within a week in urgent cases.

Young trans people can struggle greatly with their body confidence. Will the Minister, and her colleagues throughout the Government, undertake to look at the first report of the Women and Equalities Committee? It is published today, and it makes specific recommendations on how to improve the lives of young trans people.

Absolutely. I warmly welcome that report, and I thank the Chairman of the Select Committee—and, indeed, the whole Committee—for the valuable work that they have done. The report follows the Committee’s first inquiry, and it sends a clear signal about the importance of this issue. I look forward greatly to working through the report carefully and thoughtfully with those in other Departments, and looking closely at every one of my right hon. Friend’s recommendations.