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Making Children's Rights Real Across Scotland

Event Summary

Thursday 27 May 2021



Organised by the Supporting the Third Sector Project (click the link to find out more) in partnership with the TSI Children’s Services Network

Chaired by Suzie Scott, Everyone’s Children Project, GCVS

Purpose of the event

The online event aimed to support the third sector and partners to understand the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and to explore how we can further children’s rights through sharing practice and peer learning. Click here for more about the Bill.

First of all, a huge thanks to all who contributed to the conference including the children and parents play champions, the Chair, keynote speakers, workshop facilitators and delegates as well as staff behind the scenes. The event would not have happened without this collective input. We hope it has provided useful information and inspiration for all of us to continue to #MakeRightsReal for children and young people in Scotland.

Summary of activities

See blocks on the right for links to presentations and resources.

The mini digital conference brought together more than 120 people from the third and public sectors. It commenced with keynote speaker Juliet Harris from Together Scotland. Juliet gave an overview of Scotland’s incremental approach to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law. She also helpfully explained the key aspects of the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and the implications for those working with children and young people.

Juliet was followed by another keynote speaker, Rona Blackwood from Children’s Parliament. Rona set the scene for the afternoon by highlighting the importance of embedding a child rights-based approach into practice. She invited delegates to support children to further exercise their rights by joining the Year of Childhood and the Unfearties campaign.

“Content was great. Good combination of guest speakers, interactive workshops and the children’s involvement at the end was superb.”

Delegates then split into groups and participated in facilitated workshops over a range of themes. Breakout sessions were led the organisations below. Click the name of each organisation to find out more about what they do:

See blocks on the right for more details on the workshops.

Before the event closed, child and parent play champions from Licketyspit's Children & Families Network brought our discussions about children’s rights to life at the end of the afternoon, by helping us ‘Have Our Say through Play’! Through the “What time is it, Mr No Rights Wolf?” game, the champions shared what’s important to them about UNCRC implementation and how adults can truly uphold their rights in practice, through equal group play.


Image descriptions:
Four screenshots of Licketyspit staff and child play champions from their Children and Families Network playing the “What time is it, Mr No Rights Wolf?” game. They have all creatively dressed up as wolves, wearing things like onsies, furry hats and a drawing of a wolf.

“Brilliant! A really great balance of important information, case studies, speakers and interaction. It was also fantastic how children were involved in an authentic and fun way.”

Together Scotland

Juliet Harris gave an overview of Scotland’s approach to incorporate the UNCRC and key aspects of the Bill.

View the presentation

Children's Parliament

Children's Parliament gave a keynote speech and held a workshop on their "Children's Parliament Investigates" work.

View the presentations


Licketyspit held a ‘Have Your Say through Play’ game and a workshop on Delivering Children’s Rights Through Play.

View the presentation & video

Children in Scotland

Children in Scotland held two workshops at the event.

View the presentations


The ALLIANCE held a workshop on Realising Children’s Rights by learning through GIRFEC.

Access the resources

Fife Young Carers

Fife Young Carers led a workshop exploring how to engage Young Carers at every level of service delivery.

View the presentation


Includem held a workshop sharing successes and learnings from their work over the past year.

View the presentation

Our Hearings, Our Voice

OHOV held a workshop on their 40 Calls to Action.

View the presentation


WHALE Arts held a workshop to give participants insight into how they developed their approach.

View the presentation


Aberlour held a workshop discussing the Promise and their new residential children’s service in Tayside.

Watch video shown in workshop

How do we guarantee better, safer childhoods? Work with local communities in a movement for change

Joanna Barrett, NSPCC Scotland's Policy and Public Affairs Manager, responds to call 4 of our 25 Calls campaign, arguing that a cultural shift in our approach to child protection is needed if Scotland is to become the best place to grow up

Call 4: To end abuse and neglect, live what we know: it’s everyone’s job to make sure children are alright

As a nation, Scotland has great ambitions for our children: we want to be the best place to grow up; we’re incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to fully recognise children rights in law. But we’re also a country in which almost a quarter of a million children are living in poverty, in which there are over 14,500 children who are looked after, and in which more than 2,500 children are on the child protection register. There is much work to do to match our aspirations to children’s lived reality.

In her call as part of Children in Scotland's 25 Calls campaign, Professor Daniel rightly argues that to prevent abuse and neglect, and so plug this gap between rhetoric and reality, we need greater buy-in to the message that it is everyone’s job to make sure that children are alright.

'Prevention requires us to value children, and prioritise their needs: as individuals, as communities and as a society'

Part of this ‘buy-in’ is cultural. We need greater shared understanding of what makes children ‘alright’.

As a society, (how) do we value children? Journalist Kenneth Roy charted Scottish social history and describes a particularly punitive and authoritarian culture in Scotland [1].

While times have certainly changed, these attitudes still cast a shadow over children’s experiences today. This can be clearly seen in the recent debates on the physical punishment of children. As John Finnie’s Equal Protection Bill has passed through the Scottish Parliament, questions have been asked about  whether children have rights at all, or, if they do, whether those rights have been positioned in opposition to the rights and responsibilities of parents.

A wealth of research in recent decades has taught us much about child development and what children need to thrive, and this has begun to influence policy-making. We know that children’s brains are built over time, and that this is influenced by the relationships around the child. Positive experiences in the early years and in adolescence build structures in the brain that support later health, relationships and job outcomes. Building children’s brains is group work – all the adults around children have a part to play to ensure that the experiences children have and the environments they grow up in help build their brains to ensure they have better futures.

Yet insights into child development are still largely the domain of professionals. There’s still a job to do to share this knowledge within our communities, to develop a shared understanding and appreciation for childhood and so collectively create the conditions for children to grow up safe and happy. That’s the basis of NSPCC’s Sharing the Science project: using a common language to share the science of child development with a whole community.

In addition to this cultural shift in how we view children, ‘buy in’ is also structural: the role that our policies and services play in protecting children.

‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ has become a zeitgeist of social policy in Scotland of late; the recognition that our early experiences matter. This (often retrospective) recognition is valuable, but awareness only takes you so far. What are we doing about the thousands of children who are experiencing adversity right now? Importantly, what are we doing to prevent it?

Despite more than a decade of building momentum and consensus on the importance of prevention and early intervention, we still struggle to reflect these intentions in our systems. In 2014, NSPCC and Barnardo’s Scotland published research [1] on the impact of austerity and welfare reform on family support services. We found families were increasingly presenting to services in a state of crisis, even when services were designed to deliver early intervention or preventative work. Severity of need was visibly growing and services were being forced to shift away from prevention to meet this need. Services were also struggling to develop consistent relationships with families due to funding uncertainties. We are in the process of repeating this research to see what has changed in the intervening five years.

Poverty is massively damaging for children. The stress of poverty, often interacting with issues like substance misuse or mental ill-health, can leave parents feeling overloaded, and this can impact on their relationship with their child. While children living in deprived areas are much more likely to be subject to child protection interventions [2], reducing poverty can have a positive impact on children’s experiences of abuse and neglect [3]. And so the recent Scottish Government announcement on a new Child Payment for families on low incomes is very welcome.

Where there are child protection concerns, poverty can be the elephant in the room; all too often an overwhelming facet of family life, but at the same time not openly discussed. Studies [4] have shown that child protection professionals do not have sufficient skills, and do not believe it is their role to help vulnerable families with very low income address their economic circumstances. In response to this, NSPCC has embarked upon a project with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, to work with child protection professionals to challenge assumptions and position tackling poverty as core to child protection.

The need to work at different levels to protect children is a journey we ourselves at the NSPCC have been on. That’s why we have launched our Together for Childhood initiative in Govan, Glasgow. Together for Childhood is a place-based, long term, partnership project to prevent child abuse and neglect. It aims, through creating a powerful partnership with local people and agencies, to transform how a community raises its children. By working with the community in a movement for change, we want to change the experience of childhood for the better.

Child abuse is preventable, not inevitable. Prevention requires us to value children, and prioritise their needs: as individuals, as communities and as a society.

Joanna Barrett is Policy and Public Affairs Manager at NSPCC Scotland. 




[4] ibid

About the author

Joanna Barrett is Policy and Public Affairs Manager at NSPCC Scotland. Find out more about their work here.

Click to visit the website

Call 4

Read the original call from Professor Brigid Daniel here.

Click to read

25 Calls

Return to the main 25 Calls page to find out what change others are calling for.

Click to visit the page

Becoming an 'Unfeartie' is just the first step in defending children's rights. Join us today

Clare and Lisa from Fa'side Women's Group respond to Call 23 of our 25 Calls campaign, which argued that Scotland should become a nation of child rights defenders.

In their short video, they share their experiences of becoming Unfearties.

Call 23 – Let’s make Scotland a nation of Unfearties!

Joining the Unfeartie movement is an important step adults can take to say that they actively support children's rights. Becoming an Unfeartie means we will defend, uphold and speak up for children's rights as part of a collective drive to transform experiences of children in Scotland.

We don't have to be experts in childcare or in human rights to become Unfearties – anyone can join the movement. And everyone who believes that children's rights should be respected and celebrated should.

In Tranent, East Lothian, Fa'side Women's Group, an informal community group for women and girls, worked with the Children's Parliament to host International Women's Day in March 2019. Two Children's Parliament Members and Children's Human Rights Defenders, Megan and Faith, facilitated a vibrant, fun-packed event that had women and girls talking about our rights – and what we need to make Tranent a human rights aware town. Our big local sign up brought more than 50 Unfearties from the local community together.

We're envisioning how as adults we can learn from children and support our bairns in fully achieving their rights. It’s an exciting journey of co-operative discovery that we hope will encourage everyone in our town to know, understand and respect children's rights. Becoming an Unfeartie is just the first step of learning.

Join us as we stand up for rights.

Clare MacGillivray, from Fa'side Women's Group, is responding here to Call 23 of our 25 Calls campaign. The Call was contributed by Rona Blackwood and Chelsea Stinson from the Children's Parliament, and Juliet Harris from Together, the Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights. Click here to read the call


Unfearties are individuals who are courageous in discussing children’s issues, and are willing to speak up for their rights

Click to find out more

Children's Parliament

Children's Parliament is Scotland's Centre of Excellence for Children's Participation and Engagement

Click to learn more

25 Calls

Return to the main 25 Calls page to find out what change others are calling for.

Click to read more

Call 23

"Let’s make Scotland a nation of Unfearties!" By Children's Parliament and Together

Click to read the call

In a time of cuts, job insecurity and social isolation, Scotland must step up to provide consistent, relationship-based support for families

Shelagh Young, Home-Start UK Director of Scotland, responds to call 21 of our 25 Calls campaign, which argued that Scotland must invest in relationship-based, whole-family support'.

What sort of parent needs what Clare Simpson calls “holistic, relationship-based family support” in order to do the right thing for their children? The answer is, of course, every parent, because no one is a perfect parent – certainly not from day one – probably not ever. And childhood can’t wait. The good news for Scotland’s children and future generations is that many of us still get what we need from universal services combined with our own well-rooted social connections. But what about those who don’t

Home-Start sparked into being in 1974 because our founder could see that not every parent can get it right for every child without some kind, non-judgemental extra help. Home-Start often works with parents who haven’t had warm, consistent parenting themselves while others are just sideswiped by mental health problems or have become isolated and don’t have reliable, trustworthy friends and family around to support them. Sadly, we also meet destitute parents whose income cannot meet family needs and other parents, so battered by adverse life events, that they cannot even get what they need from the so-called universal services many of us take for granted.

'Talk to most supported parents and they will tell you first about the human being, rather than any scheme or a programme, who helped them transform their lives'.

The Scottish Government knows this and much of its policy looks gold standard. But is it working on the ground? For example, we hear a lot about the Health Visitor Pathway which defines frequency of visits and areas of focus as well as an investment in increasing health visitor numbers.

But talk to any Health Visitor and they are likely to tell you that without Third Sector agencies to take up their referrals we will see more families falling deeper into distress, more children’s lives seriously damaged and even greater strain on overstretched social work teams. Despite this the traditional source of family support funding, local authorities, are making cuts year on year. Talk to most supported parents and they will tell you first about the human being, rather than any scheme or a programme, who helped them transform their lives.

Instead of moving towards Clare’s call for a Supporting Families Strategy that ensures sufficient resources reach local authorities to fund strengths focused and relationship-based family support we are heading in another, altogether more worrying direction. A shift towards national investments in targeted and time-bound interventions is already upon us. For example, the highly targeted Family Nurse Partnership programme – your own special expert friend if you happen to be having your first child aged 24 or under but unavailable if you are 25 plus, pregnant with your third child and, for example,  recently bereaved.

Parenting programmes like Triple P – subject to an excoriatingly negative evaluation in Glasgow - do work for some. But if you were feeling pretty hopeless as a parent, or, as one parent said to me recently, unable to think about anything but how frightening and embarrassing it is to not know where your child’s next meal will come from, would you feel up to being plunged into a roomful of strangers? Wouldn’t you want the next best thing to a trusted friend to spend some time with you till you felt secure enough to start working on becoming the better parent you always wanted to be?

As public health expert Sir Harry Burns puts it, consistent parenting, which enables children to grow up feeling safe and loved, reduces sickness and is the key to making Scotland healthier.

'Lost community networks and social structures are creating a crisis of self-worth. And if parents feel worthless what does that tell a child?'

Wellbeing is complex, but Sir Harry makes it clear that it is more than not being ill “it is about being in control of one’s life, one’s own decision making. It means you have a purpose in life, you have an optimistic outlook. You are adaptable and resilient and feel safe and secure.” According to Sir Harry Burns lost community networks and social structures are creating a crisis of self-worth. And if parents feel worthless what does that tell a child?

At Home-Start we see this crisis played out in family homes every day. What Clare calls for is what Home-Start’s staff and trained volunteer support for parents shows can happen - when help is provided in the context of meaningful relationships the future will be brighter for many more children. But to get more parents feeling helped, rather than as I’ve heard it described, under the thumb of “some faceless government department”, the help must be offered in ways which reduce stigma. That’s why universal services matter as well as who is offering them and how.

Time to build trusting relationships with families is becoming harder for the Third Sector to fund as flexible, long-term reliable core funding drains away to be replaced by unreliable incomes derived increasingly from philanthropists, lottery ticket and scratch card sales. Is this really the best Scotland can do?

Shelagh Young is Home-Start UK Director of Scotland.

Click here to visit the Home-Start website

About the author

Find out more about the work of Home-Start in Scotland.

Click to visit the website

Call 21

'Invest in relationship-based, whole family support' – Clare Simpson, PaS

Click to read the full call

25 Calls

Visit the main 25 Calls page to find out what change others are calling for

Click here

Trans students can't afford a delay on GRA reform

NUS Scotland responds to Call 8 of our 25 Calls campaign which called for GRA reform, stressing that transgender students can't afford to wait and deserve to have the same legal protections and recognitions as anyone else. 

Call 8: Reform the Gender Recognition Act and give trans young people the chance to live full, happy lives

For years we have been told that Scotland is one of the best places to grow up if you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

However, the toxicity surrounding the reform of the Gender Recognition Act (2004) has called into question that claim: that in Scotland you can love who you chose to love and be who you really are without impediment, fear or hatred. Mistruths, misinformation and division has, sadly, tainted the debate and now the process of reform.

That is why Call 8 from Children in Scotland’s 25 Calls – the call to reform the Gender Recognition Act – is incredibly important for young people across Scotland. We must not overstate the importance of listening to the lived experiences and voices of those striving for recognition and equality.

'The lives of our transgender students are too important to be used as a political football.'

In pursuit of equality and on behalf of transgender and non-binary students throughout Scotland, NUS Scotland made their voices abundantly clear in responding to the Scottish Government’s initial consultation on GRA reform.

A consultation which was open for four months received in excess of 15,000 responses, the majority of which indicated clear support for reforming the Act. This was a full, thorough and widely advertised consultation.

NUS Scotland and Children in Scotland are united in their belief that to eliminate discrimination and injustice, we must articulate the voices of those young people impacted by the delay in GRA reform.

It’s disappointing, therefore, to note the Scottish Government’s decision to kick gender recognition reform into the long grass. Any delay in reform equates to a delay in progress – NUS Scotland, the Scottish Government and partners from across Scotland have worked incredibly hard to progress that.

Students, activists, campaigners and even the Scottish Government all agree – we must get this right. The lives of our transgender and non-binary students are too important to be used as political footballs. Trans rights – the right of identity and recognition – are not an agenda item nor a point of discussion. We can’t allow another generation of transgender students to be subject to the same intrusive discrimination that has blighted their previous generations.

This same right – the right of identity and recognition – should have been extended to 16-  and 17-year olds too. The Scottish Government has rightly prided itself on ensuring the rights and protections of Scotland’s young people are upheld – the right to vote at 16 for example. It’s wrong to deny those 16- and 17-year trans students their right to legal recognition.

We were also disappointed to see the government fail to move forward with legal recognition for non-binary people. Lack of legal recognition means forcing non-binary people to identify as something they are not.

'Lack of legal recognition means forcing non-binary people to identify as something they are not.'

While we support the government’s move to set up a working group exploring non-legislative ways to recognise non-binary people, this must accompany a robust, legal right to recognition.

NUS Scotland has already made clear the specific difficulties trans and non-binary students encounter whilst within further and higher education. Our campuses should reflect a thriving environment for our students, offering safety and security, free from rejection or discrimination.

Whilst we have a way to go to ensure uniform standards and policies are in place throughout all of Scotland’s institutions to ensure trans and non-binary student inclusivity, we need our Parliament to show the way too.

We can start by ensuring all trans and non-binary people have the same legal recognitions and protections as anyone else; that the process is non-intrusive and accessible for all; that the same right and protections be extended to 16- and 17-year olds; and that the Scottish Government continues to ensure progress, safety and security for all trans and non-binary people across Scotland. We deserve no less.

Blog written by  Ethan Cain, LGBT Officer, and Ethan Wilson, Trans Officer, at NUS Scotland.

Click here to find out more about NUS Scotland

NUS Scotland

Find out more about NUS Scotland, which represents around 500,000 students in Scotland.

Click to visit the website

Call 8: Reform the GRA

Reform the Gender Recognition Act and give trans young people the chance to live full, happy lives

Click to read the full call
Trans rights flag

Latest news

'GRA reform is a fundamental equality issue for trans young people. So why delay it?'

Click to read our statement

Scottish Trans Alliance

A project to improve gender identity and gender reassignment equality, rights and inclusion in Scotland

Click to visit the website

25 Calls campaign

Find out more about the 25 Calls campaign, view press coverage and read further responses

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Let's welcome the Scottish Government's move on family income. But remember: child poverty is not inevitable – it is always a political choice

Tomorrow, the UN Rapporteur presents his final report on extreme poverty in Britain. Responding to Call 2 of our 25 Calls campaign, the SCVO's Sheghley Ogilvie agrees with his findings, welcomes our government's pledge to bring forward the Scottish Child Payment, and proposes next steps that must be taken to achieve our shared goals

Call 2: Make it your business to tackle child poverty

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, will tomorrow (Friday 28 June 2019), present his final report on extreme poverty and human rights in the UK, to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The report is a scathing denunciation of austerity Britain, in which the Special Rapporteur condemns the UK Government for adopting a range of policies that both fail the most vulnerable and are incompatible with human rights.

The Rapporteur highlights that as a result of the policy changes since 2010 progress on child poverty has been unravelling. Unbelievably, it is projected that child poverty rates across the UK will reach close to 40 per cent by 2021. In Scotland, despite the reintroduction of the statutory child poverty targets in 2017 (after the UK Government abolished them a year before) the Scottish Government’s own forecasts predict that without action, the child poverty rate will rise to 35 per cent by 2030.

Similarly, after analysing the Scottish Government’s December budget, the independent Poverty and Inequality Commission warned that without significant investment the Scottish government will miss its own child poverty targets (click to read). Action is urgently needed if we are to ensure that every child really does have every chance.

This week the Scottish Government recognised the scale and urgency of the challenge. Following intense pressure from the third sector and wider civic society, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell MSP, announced the Scottish Child Payment (formerly known as the Income Supplement). The payment of £10 per week will be delivered by Social Security Scotland to eligible children under 16 by 2022.

Encouragingly, after over 70 organisations and leaders from across Scottish society wrote to the First Minister to highlighting stark child poverty projections (click to read), the announcement included a commitment to deliver payments to families with children under the age of six by 2020/21, the end of this parliamentary term. One third of Scottish children are expected to be eligible, highlighting both a real commitment from the Scottish Government to deliver on its child poverty targets – but also the scale of the challenge.

In Scotland, SCVO, like the Rapporteur and colleagues across the third sector, recognise that the Scottish Government has tried to mitigate some of the worst impacts of Westminster austerity policy. Indeed, the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan and the Scottish Child Payment are examples of this. We also recognise that the Scottish Government, like other devolved administrations, has experienced significant reductions in block grant funding and that there are constitutional limits on the government’s ability to raise revenue.

Despite this, the Scottish Government can and must go further to create a co-ordinated vision to tackle the poverty and inequality, realise rights, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

'The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, as such austerity has been driven not from economic necessity, but to justify ideologically driven poverty-related policy'.

The report lays bare the reality of poverty for children, families, and communities across Scotland and the UK; battles with hunger, struggles to pay their bills, and, for those trapped in poverty in the long-term, the impact on their health, wellbeing, and life chances. Most damning of all is the recognition that the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, and austerity has been driven not from economic necessity, but to justify ideologically-driven policy. Poverty, the Rapporteur says, is a political choice. Shamefully, this political choice effects 14 million people in the UK, one fifth of our population.

Action must be taken to:

  • Include a robust reference to international standards human rights standards in the Social Security (Scotland) Act, an omission that did not go unnoticed by the Rapporteur who described it as a significant accountability gap.
  • Strengthen the Scottish Business Pledge, so that all businesses are required to commit to it, or as a minimum the Living Wage, in order to receive public contracts.
  • Redesign Fair Start Scotland to create person-centred rights-based services, rather than focusing solely on getting people into work as quickly as possible.
  • Urgently address issues around the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) monies, which only last year, despite the poverty experienced by communities across Scotland, the Scottish Government failed to spend in real terms due to poor management. As a result, the European Commission has de-committed and asked for the return of millions of pounds that could have made a difference to the lives of children, families and communities across Scotland.

Introducing a universal basic income or a minimum income guarantee are also avenues that the Scottish Government can and should explore (though we recognise that the Scottish Government plan to support some basic income pilots). We must also recognise and value other contributions to society: carers, volunteers, learners, or activists, and adequately support them in these roles.

To fulfil the right to an adequate standard of living, people, families, and communities must have access to adequate and reliable incomes. To achieve this, urgent action is needed at a UK level to improve Universal Credit, scrap the benefit cap, and repeal the two-child limit.

The Rapporteur described child poverty in twenty-first century Britain as not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster. We must recognise that the poverty experienced by children, families, and communities across Scotland and the UK is not inevitable, it is a failure of government to fulfil the rights of their citizens. The Scottish Child Payment is hugely welcome and demonstrates what can be achieved when there is the political will to utilise devolved powers.

Social Security is not, however, the only tool through which the Scottish and UK governments can address poverty and realise rights. Together we must continue to challenge both the Scottish and the UK governments to go further to address poverty, deliver on rights, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Click here to read SCVO’s full response to the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights

Sheghley Ogilvie is public affairs officer at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO). She is responding here to Call 2 of our 25 Calls campaign, by Professor John McKendrick

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, is scheduled to present his UK report (click to read) to the UN Human Rights Council tomorrow afternoon (Friday 28 June). 

About the author

Sheghley leads on a range of policy areas at SCVO, including social security

Find out more

Call 2, by John McKendrick

"Make it your business to tackle child poverty"

Click to read the full call

25 Calls

Find out more about our campaign to improve children's lives and strengthen equality

Click to view the campaign

"The social safety net has been dismantled"

The UN Rapporteur has written a report on poverty and human rights in the UK

Click to read the report

Youth work gives us vital opportunities, independence and access to non-formal education. We must protect it

Responding to Call 6, Rosie SumsionMSYP for Helensburgh and Lomond, explains why a new Scottish Youth Parliament campaign is helping to prove youth work’s real value

Call 6: Rights, wellbeing and love of learning must be at the heart of education if Scotland is truly to be ‘the best place to grow up

As part of the 25 Calls campaign, Elaine Kerridge says that rights, wellbeing and love of learning must be at the heart of education. Elaine is right – but in my view, in a Scotland where schools are becoming exam factories, the aspects of education which cannot be graded are increasingly being devalued. Luckily, youth work often picks them up.

Through youth forums, youth groups, and fantastic voluntary organisations, young people can develop in a non-formal environment. By working with one another and youth workers, young people can create learning specific to our own individual needs, ensuring a future generation who are not only academically able, but also socially able.

The Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) recently launched a new campaign, Youth Work and Me, which aims to celebrate and showcase youth work, to shout about the impact it has on our lives, and to share our views about is future. In early 2019, we carried out a survey of 116 young people to find out about their experiences of youth work, and why it is important to them.

'In many areas, including my own, youth services are facing massive cuts. In March this year, my local authority’s youth work budget was cut by 53% with a loss of 17 jobs'.

Young people told us that youth work gives us many things: opportunities, support, confidence and self-esteem, friendship, skills, a voice and independence.

For young people who find school a challenging environment to learn and grow in, youth work provides a vital alternative. In youth work settings, we can access training, join modern apprenticeships, and complete qualifications such as Youth Achievement Awards.

About the author

Rosie Sumsion is an MSYP. Find out more about their work and the Scottish Youth Parliament

Click to visit the website

Call 6

Read our original call for 'rights wellbeing and love of learning' to be at heart of education in Scotland.

Click to read the call

YouthLink Scotland

Find out more about the the national agency for youth work, representing over 100 youth organisations in Scotland.

Click to visit the website

25 Calls campaign

Find out more about our campaign to improve the lives of children in Scotland.

Click to visit the campaign

Youth work plays a key role in ensuring people understand alternative career paths open to them. Through the development of these skills, qualifications and experience, young people can access education in a way that ensures all-round development and guarantees that an envelope on 8 August is not future-defining.

Youth Work also plays a key role in ensuring the voices of young people are heard in all aspects of life. As MSYPs, local groups provide us with a vital means of communication. Without youth work, we wouldn’t have our amazing Support Workers, who help us better understand the views of the young people we are here to represent.

Youth work provides a means of communication on a more local level. Youth groups are often a first port of call for local consultations, as focus groups to gather the views of young people, or to make sure young people are involved in community projects. These opportunities not only ensure young people’s opinions are considered, but that young people are actively involved in decision-making, and are active participants in society.

Now, at this point it’s clear youth work is pretty awesome. Youth work is an investment, one that consistently pays off. According to YouthLink Scotland’s 2016 report on the Social and Economic Value of Youth Work in Scotland, for every £1 invested in youth services, £7 is returned, and thousands of lives are transformed.

Yet in many areas, including my own, youth services are facing massive cuts. In March this year, my local authority’s youth work budget was cut by 53% with a loss of 17 jobs. This is not just an issue that is affecting young people in my area. In 2019, we’ve seen cuts to youth work budgets across the country, from Aberdeen, to Midlothian, to Glasgow. Worryingly, young people often seem to be the first to fall.

The loss of youth work will have a devastating impact on young people. In SYP’s Youth Work and Me report, young people told us if there was no youth work in their area there would be an increase in isolation, crime and anti-social behaviour, mental health problems, and poverty. Young people said they would have fewer opportunities, less support, and would not feel as confident.

Youth work is vital to making Scotland the best place in the world for young people to grow up. But these services must be saved before it is too late. We need to celebrate the impact of youth work up and down the country. We need to protect it, like it protects us.

Rosie Sumsion is MSYP for Helensburgh and Lomond. She is responding here to Elaine Kerridge's call as part of our 25 Calls campaign. Click here to read the call

The case for P1 testing has still not been made

Children in Scotland has reiterated its opposition to P1 testing following publication yesterday of an independent review which recommended that tests continue following “modifications”.

Children in Scotland's Chief Executive Jackie Brock said:

“We welcome publication of David Reedy’s review but are disappointed and surprised that the report does not take a more critical view.

“It’s clear from the report that many teachers are finding a way of accommodating P1 testing – something we never doubted they would be able to do – and that a proportion have reconciled themselves to the policy.

“Our focus is on making a judgment about whether education policy can make a positive difference for children, in this case during a vital period of transition.

“What we have consistently heard from our network is that testing at this stage takes away valuable time that could be focused on strengthening relationships with children and families, observing how children are learning through play, and planning experiences that will further support their development.

“Given this, we remain entirely unconvinced of the value of P1 testing, despite the changes proposed.

“Mr Reedy’s report would have benefited from having within its scope analysis of international evidence about the impact of testing at the early stage, a point well made during the parliamentary debate yesterday.

“We also note that the report suggests testing in P1 needs to have a ‘clear rationale’ behind it.

“We are sceptical that a clear rationale for P1 testing can be produced and are concerned that a policy of this importance has been introduced without one.

“We will continue to scrutinise the roll-out of P1 testing and share with the Scottish Government the views of our network and partners on the policy.”

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In parental disputes, let’s support all family members – mums, dads and children

Responding to Call 21, Ian Maxwell says changing the culture of dispute resolution will rely on Scottish Government family law reforms being shaped by the UNCRC

In call 21 of Children in Scotland’s 25 Calls campaign, Clare Simpson from Parenting across Scotland makes the case for families to be supported by the state in order to benefit children.

At Families Need Fathers Scotland we see particular need for support to be given to all family members in situations where parents are separating or already live apart. That's not just material support but moral and administrative and institutional support. In short, a cultural change that accepts that a child's 'family' continues even when the parents do not live together.

The Scottish Government is committed to incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scottish law. A consultation on the practicalities of doing so is under way. Article 9 of the UNCRC states: “Children whose parents have separated have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this could cause them harm.”

'Our experience isn't only with fathers. All the parents who contact us are struggling with situations in which it is difficult or impossible for them to see a child or children''

Unfortunately, we hear too often of institutional assumptions that where parents do not live together one will be perceived as a 'main' parent and the other, most often but not always the father, as an 'add on' to the family.

That might make the job of some professionals easier and their relationship with the 'main' parent more cordial, but it does not start from the perspective of the child as the UNCRC will require.

Too many professionals don't make the same effort to get to know both parents. Too many don't make any effort at all. A recent conference of social workers heard from a researcher who referred to her experience of “ghost fathers”. By that, she told the audience, “You have to believe in them before you can see them”.

Our experience isn't only with fathers. All the parents – fathers and mothers and other family members - who contact us are struggling with situations in which it is difficult or impossible for them to see a child or children.

We urge them to exhaust all other options before considering going to court. Contact and residence cases can become very expensive, prolong the process of resolving disagreements about sharing parenting time with children and too often create entirely new animosities between parents. All of these can be at the expense of the children they both love and want to support.

Obviously, not everybody ends up in court but nearly 13,000 families were involved with cases last year. According to the Scottish Legal Aid Board (Rethinking Legal Aid - An Independent Strategic Review by Martyn Evans – Feb 2018), the cost of these court cases in 2016-17 was £18.2 million in legal aid plus an unquantified cost for privately funded cases and the associated court costs.

This mixture of public and private money is spent to decide disputes and provide children with protection when necessary. It far outstrips the amounts of public funding available to help parents to resolve differences through relationship support, mediation and family therapy, even although these processes are usually more constructive and less damaging to families.

In Australia the state has invested large amounts of money in 65 Family Relationships Centres (FRCs) across the country, which provide information, referral and individual sessions free of charge. Initial joint family dispute resolution sessions are free and subsequent sessions have no charges for people on low incomes.

An evaluation in 2009 showed that “there is more use of relationship services, a decline in filings in the courts in children’s cases, and some evidence of a shift away from an automatic recourse to legal solutions in response to post‐separation relationship difficulties”.

Although Australia hasn't created a perfect system for supporting separated families, their work since 2005 to provide readily available help well before cases hit the courts seems to be proving cost-effective and producing better results for children and their parents.

In our submission to the consultation on Family Law Modernisation we have drawn to the Scottish Government’s attention the positive role that can be played by Family Coordinators in helping resolve the difficulties that often arise after the judge or sheriff has made a decision and closed the case. Parents who have been battling in court need to win the peace and can be assisted in that process by an independent input into remembering to put their children first.

Our message to the government is simple: prioritise constructive family support over destructive court-based family dispute resolution.

We are expecting the Scottish Government's family law modernisation proposals to be set out in a bill in Holyrood within the coming months. The UNCRC, not least the Article 9 provision, must breathe life into the family law modernisation legislation if it is to change the prevailing culture that sees children as prizes rather than individuals with rights.

Ian Maxwell is National Manager of Families Need Fathers Scotland. He is responding here to call 21 by Clare Simpson, manager of Parenting across Scotland: “Invest in relationship-based whole-family support”.

About the author

Ian Maxwell is National Manager of Families Need Fathers Scotland

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Our work in 2018-19

2018-19 has been a busy and fast- moving year for us here at Children in Scotland. This report provides an overview of our achievements over the year, and offers an insight to our priorities and values. 

During the past year we changed our voice and look, and in autumn 2018 we drew on the lessons from this to launch our 25 Calls campaign, marking our 25th year as Children in Scotland. This innovative project, based on issues our Changing our World advisory group told us were important to them, included working in partnership with 50+ individuals and organisations across the children’s sector in Scotland to produce a powerful set of proposals for change.

2018-19 again saw us deliver a wide range of services, projects, consultations and campaigns – too many to list in the space I have here but a number are included within this report. Highlights for me have been First Minister’s Question Time Next Generation, the CHANGE programme and the launch of the Early Learning & Childcare Inclusion Fund, while our Learning & Events programme and Membership Service have reached more people than ever.

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