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Five child-friendly nature activities for the summer holidays

With the school holidays fast approaching, many parents, families and caregivers will be on the hunt for summer activities that are not only purse-friendly but engaging and educational, too – and luckily, leading wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation is on hand to help.

From venturing outdoors to learn about insects to improving maths skills through butterfly spotting, discover the environmental charity's top recommendations for free and fun nature-led activities the whole family will love.

1. Join the Big Butterfly Count

Take part in the world’s biggest butterfly survey this July and August.  It only takes 15 minutes, it's fun and free, and also helps scientists understand how butterflies are doing across the UK.

Last year, for the first time ever, the most counted butterfly was the Red Admiral, with a whopping 248,077 recorded! Will it keep the top spot? Help the charity find out by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count as many times as you like, wherever you like, between July 12 and August 4 2024.

For more information, visit bigbutterflycount.org (click here for more) or download the free app.

2. Make and fly a butterfly kite

Not only will a fun craft project get your little ones outside in the fresh air, the charity's simple but effective butterfly kite-making activity is easy and requires few materials. No breeze? No problem! Try running with the kite behind you to get it to soar... Or should that be flutter?

Click here to access the template as well as a handy video guide.

3. Learn about butterfly body parts 

Ever wondered how many legs a butterfly has? Or if they can smell? Spark little ones’ curiosity this summer holidays with some fun facts about butterflies before heading out to see what you can spot.

Click here to watch Butterfly Conservation’s video all about butterfly body parts, learn more and plan your fun lesson.

A small pink and yellow moth sits on a child's finger.

4. Grow a wild home for butterflies and moths

Growing plants in pots can provide valuable food for butterflies and moths in any outdoor space, whether it be a patio, balcony, rented garden, or even a front doorstep! There are lots of plants to choose from that are child-friendly, liked by butterflies, and will thrive in a pot – as long as you remember to water them!

Here are a few of Butterfly Conservation’s top picks:

Nasturtium – this edible plant produces bright, colourful flowers and the leaves are irresistible to the caterpillars of the Large and Small White butterfly. They are really easy to grow from seed and the seeds are a good size for small hands to handle too.

Herbs – herbs make fantastic pot plants and can be enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike. Chives, Marjoram, Thyme, and Bergamot all produce flowers that insects love and are usually easy to find as seeds or plants from a garden centre, supermarket or online.

Salvia – this attractive plant grows well in containers,and there are lots of different sizes and colours to choose from. The flowers are loved by pollinators and their bushy leaves provide shelter for many other insects.

For more ideas, visit wild-spaces.co.uk (click here for more).

5. Look out for caterpillar clues

Spotting caterpillars can be tricky. While a few bright and colourful ones stand out, most are the masters of disguise! From looking for munched leaves to heading out under the cover of darkness, Butterfly Conservation has lots of top tips for spotting caterpillars, as well as resources to plan an educational caterpillar hunt with children of all ages.

Click here for a step-by-step guide and free downloadable worksheets.

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The road to safer journeys for children and young people

With responsibility for road safety learning and publicity, Road Safety Scotland’s (RSS) learning resources have always been ‘child-centric’, co-produced with teachers and pupils, and linked to Curriculum for Excellence.

Aiming to ensure all learning resources are of a high quality and fully fit-for-purpose, RSS recently commissioned The Leith Agency to create new educational material for several of its online resources. Working with Children in Scotland's Policy, Projects and Participation Team, RSS also sought the voices and opinions of children and young people to ensure the information would engage learners in a way that was appropriate, relevant and challenging to them. Here, we find out more.

RSS believes road safety learning should be accessible for all children and young people in Scotland, with access to key learning made available at every stage on their journey towards becoming safe, independent road users.

The foundation for all RSS activity is a commitment to the use of analysis and evidence, and RSS has been at the forefront of driving an evidence-informed approach to road safety learning and publicity in Scotland for many years.

RSS sees road safety as a lifelong-learning process and, therefore, the knowledge, skills and attitudes which will be required when young people become independent road users – across all modes, including as pedestrians, cyclists, passengers and drivers – need to be embedded from the start.

When it came to creating new digital resources, RSS knew children's voices would be vital, and asked the Participation Team at Children in Scotland (click here for more) to help support the involvement of young people to share their views on the review and re-design.

Parisa Shirazi, Children in Scotland’s Senior Policy, Projects and Participation Officer, who helped lead recent in-person sessions explained: Our approach to engagement is framed around the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) with a focus on Article 12, which states children and young people have the right to have their views heard on the issues that affect their lives.

“Young people have invaluable perspectives, views and voices, and it is our job to create the spaces and opportunities for them to be involved. From our own experience, involving children and young people not only enriches the process of creating new resources or policy ideas, but also makes the end result so much better than it would have been.”

A hand-drawn map details a local town centre, including road markings and pavements, buildings, cars, and traffic lights
Artwork created by children and young people during the RSS workshops

In the first phase of the project, Children in Scotland worked with secondary school pupils, delivering sessions at King’s Park Secondary School in Glasgow, and Marr College in Troon.

Parisa continued: “We spent time with pupils to see what they think young people should learn about in road safety, find out their views on the current resources available, and give them the chance to come up with their own prototypes of fun resources to share their ‘top tips’ with the designers.

“We were really impressed with the thoughtfulness and insight of the young people, who came up with ideas such as a future-proofing ‘cringe check’ of the new resources carried out by young people before they go out.

“We are currently involving more children and young people across Scotland in this work, through delivering sessions in primary schools and specialist support settings, and sharing an engagement pack that education staff can use with pupils. We look forward to hearing their ideas.”

RSS is currently undertaking a review of all its road safety learning resources to ensure they are accessible for children and young people with mild-moderate additional support needs, while also developing a new road safety resource for children with complex additional support needs, which will be ready by spring 2025.

With resources spanning the 3-18 curriculum, RSS says it is imperative learners are engaged in experiential and active learning, helping them prepare to make safer choices to protect themselves and others in the road environment.

Debbie Nicol, from Road Safety Scotland, added: “Many children and young people don’t have the ability to make good judgements about safe road use, and a lack of experience means they are at greater risk.

“These days, children and young people enjoy more freedom and travel further from home to school, college or social events and, although their road safety knowledge is high, it’s often not used. They may know what they should do – but they often make mistakes or are unsure of how to use their road safety knowledge.

“Updating our resources has been vital to ensure children and young people’s learning about road safety is not only age-appropriate, but a lifelong practice that is both accessible and engaging.”

To find out more about the road safety engagement work with children and young people, click here read the full report or visit roadsafety.scot

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Nominations now open for Scottish Children’s Health Awards 2024

Do you know someone who has gone above and beyond to help improve children and young people’s health and wellbeing? Or a young person who deserves some special recognition?

Children’s Health Scotland is seeking nominations for the annual Scottish Children’s Health Awards, which celebrate courageous children, as well as individuals and professionals who are making a difference across a range of health-related fields.

Nominations are open now until 5pm on Friday, 12 July 2024 across the following categories:

Children’s Choice Award: someone special who has made a significant difference to a child or young person whilst they have been undergoing treatment in hospital, the community or at home.

Health and Wellbeing Award: individual practitioners and teams who have made a difference to the health and wellbeing of a child or young person in school, hospital or the community through treatment or advocacy.

Healthcare Rights Award: children have the right to the best health and medical care possible, as well as the right to play and education in hospital, and this award acknowledges the extraordinary steps taken by a nominee/team to advance the healthcare rights of children and young people.

Health-Related Play Award: the charity is looking for someone special – or perhaps a special team – who has made a significance difference to a child’s life through health-related play, which can help children physically, mentally and emotionally during treatment.

Improving Life Experiences Award: honouring an individual who has made a difference to the confidence and resilience of a child or young person, nominees may also have helped children and young people develop basic skills and habits to deal with challenges later in their life.

Young Achiever Award: a child or young person who has shown great determination and enormous courage in their life.

Judging for the coveted “Teddy Awards” will take place during July and August 2024, before winners are announced at a glittering ceremony, hosted by journalist and TV presenter, Catriona Shearer.

Taking place during Scottish Children’s Health Week, which runs from 2 to 8 September, the event will also include presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be chosen by a panel of judges, and celebrates those who have made outstanding contributions to the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

To find out more and make your nomination, visit childrenshealthscotland.org/events/awards

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New survey aims to highlight unpaid carers' experiences

Charity Shared Care Scotland has launched a new survey for unpaid carers, aiming to gather experiences of accessing and using short breaks and respite services in Scotland.

Available now until July 31 2024, the online survey is open to all unpaid carers in Scotland, and the organisation would like to hear from carers of all ages, including those who provide support to a partner, child, relative, friend or neighbour.

With new “right to a break” legislation in development, Shared Care Scotland (click here for more) say it has never been more important to put carers voices at the heart of decision making, and responses from the survey will help to better influence the development of national and local policies and practice, while improving carers’ access to meaningful breaks.

“At Shared Care Scotland all of our work is informed by the voices of carers and those involved in developing and delivering meaningful short breaks,” explained Chief Executive Don Williamson. “The development of the Right to a Break from caring is a critically important step forward for unpaid carers. It has the chance to fundamentally change carers experiences for the better, but this right will only be met if there is short breaks and respite infrastructure in place to deliver it.

“Understanding the needs and the experiences of carers is an essential part of this process and we would encourage as many carers as possible to take part in our survey.”

Data from the survey will be analysed by the Shared Care Scotland team, who will later conduct a number of focus groups to discuss the issues in more detail. The survey consists mainly of multiple-choice questions, and should take no longer than 25 minutes to complete.

For more information and to access the survey, visit sharedcarescotland.org.uk/policy-practice-development/2024-carers-survey

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10 highlights from our Annual Conference 2024

Filled with countless moments of joy, inspiration, learning and connection, Children in Scotland’s Annual Conference 2024 saw more than 400 delegates, speakers and exhibitors come together at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh.

From insightful workshops and uplifting keynotes to networking sessions and motivational speeches, the successful two-day event featured a packed programme – and here, we’ve rounded up just a few of the highlights to relive all the magic.

1. Our CEO shared the importance of optimism and hope

It’s no secret that many charities and third sector organisations are currently facing a range of challenges, including staff shortages and funding shortfalls. Echoing the themes discussed in her recent blog (click here for more), our CEO Judith Turbyne used her keynote address to acknowledge the serious impact these challenges will have on vital services for children and young people – but placed emphasis on never losing hope.

Speaking to a packed room of delegates on day one, Judith said: “The cost of living crisis – on the back of the pandemic – has meant that we have been functioning in crisis mode for quite a long period of time, and we know what a serious impact this is having on the children and young and their families and carers, as well as the organisations working with and for them.

“However, I very much do believe there is real power in facing up to a crisis and allowing that to be one of the levers for change. There is always hope, and if we really work together, we can make change possible.”

2. We made hundreds of new friends!

Across both days of the conference, more than 450 delegates, speakers and exhibitors arrived at Murrayfield, enjoying a range of workshops, hands-on sessions and networking opportunities. What’s more, our official conference hashtag #CiSAC24 was used more than 100 times on X (formerly Twitter) as attendees shared who they met, what they learned, and how they were inspired to improve their work.

3. We welcomed Natalie Don MSP

Speaking passionately about her mission to make Scotland the best place for children and young people to grow up, Natalie Don MSP was welcomed to the stage on day two of the conference.

The Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise discussed a range of issues relevant to the children’s sector, providing valuable insights for delegates, before staying to visit our busy exhibition hall – and stopping to speak with Changing our World (click here for more), our vibrant children and young people’s advisory group, who had their own stand in our exhibition hall.

Natalie Don MSP with CoW

4. Delegates learned why courageous leadership is vital for reducing violence

During a personal and inspiring speech, Jimmy Paul, Head of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, called for children to be better represented in discussions about rising violence in schools, and shared why a trauma-informed approach should be taken to address such challenges.

His thoughtful speech, which focused on the need for collaboration over competition, was one of the programme highlights. Reflecting on the talk, one attendee said: “Jimmy's very personal story resonated and made me reflect on how our roles must always centre on supporting young people and families, and going above and beyond to protect them and adapt to them as individuals”.

5. Our AI panel focused on children’s rights

Hosted by Ken Corish, Online Safety Director for the South West Grid for Learning, with Gregory Metcalfe from Children’s Parliament and Dr Mhairi Aitken of The Alan Turing Institute, our panel on children’s Rights and AI raised lots of important issues, and helped to raise awareness of the safety implications of chat bots and AI-generated content.

As Gregory said during the panel: “AI is such a rapidly evolving field, it can feel impossible to keep up – but the important thing is to focus on children's rights".

6. We made some Braw animations

During an interactive and engaging workshop, Braw Talent (click here for more) shared how they use storytelling to enable young people to share their voices – and attendees even got to create their own stop motion films based around UNCRC incorporation!

Braw Talent workshops AC24

7. There was a magical musical moment

During the Live Music and Mental Health workshops, which shared key learnings from a recent project engaging with children and young people and professionals, attendees were treated to a live performance from the incredible Scottish Ensemble (click here for more) – who needs Taylor swift tickets when you’ve been to #CiSAC24!

8. Children and young people were put at the heart of our event

When it came to shaping the programme for our Annual Conference, we knew children and young people’s views and opinions would be vital for ensuring its success. As well as helping with the planning process, we were lucky enough to have members of Changing our World in attendance across both days, while members Mhairi and Olive came on board as co-chairs.

It was so inspirational to see CoW members not only chatting with delegates but hosting workshops and leading discussions – and we can’t thank them enough for all their hard work.

9. We sparked new connections

With more than 40 exhibitors hosting stalls at the conference, our delegates got the chance to learn about everything from mental health and wellbeing to social care innovation, safeguarding initiatives, suicide prevention, road safety, support available for the third sector and so much more. Plus with 25 informative workshops, there was space for lots of learning, too.

10. And there were lots of cuddles…

Zola Pets as Therapy

The wonderful charity Pets As Therapy (click here for more) brought along a special surprise for delegates – beautiful pooch Zola, who was more than happy to receive cuddles between workshops.

Thanks to everyone who attended our Annual Conference 2024, including our sponsors Kibble, Road Safety Scotland, Harmeny, and Yopa, who made it all possible.

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Tackling "poverty of opportunity" one bairn at a time

When Dundee Bairns was established in 2017 by David Dorward, former Chief Executive of Dundee City Council, its main focus was tackling the “holiday hunger” faced by children living in areas of high multiple deprivation across the city.

Now, having grown and expanded with the help of volunteers and the local community, the charity offers a range of additional support, including clothing packs, free summer activities, cooking clubs, and more. Here, Genna Millar, Project Manager at Dundee Bairns, tells us more.

Food poverty has been a huge, prevailing issue for a long time now, particularly in Dundee, where one in three children are classed as living below the poverty line.

In 2017, when Dundee Bairns was established, we saw food larders pop up for the first time across our city, with many created by volunteers, organisations and charities to help plug the gap in the new benefits system roll-out, which saw lots of families sanctioned or waiting up to 12 weeks for any money to come through the door.

It was the first time I had seen such a harsh change in the system, and it led to many families and individuals having to make really stark choices about where to spend their money. And for households that were already financially challenged, when the school holidays came around, it meant some children were spending up to seven weeks struggling to access a decent meal or any kind of day out or activity.

Our Fun and Food programme was incepted to help already established community projects to access funding and food, enhancing their activities or helping them cater to more children and families in areas of high multiple deprivation. It is now a staple of the school holiday activity provision in Dundee, with community groups, schools, church groups, support workers and more all supported by Dundee Bairns.

We now work with more than 100 community projects and schools, and supply around 3,000 to 5,000 meals per week during the holidays. Activities we have supported over the years have included hiring a lifeguard so that children with additional support needs had access to swimming sessions to funding for arts and crafts and t-shirt making kits for community family fun days, and even paying for pony-axe hire to enable children in wheelchairs to take part in horse-riding.

The meals provided by the Fun and Food programme help to take the pressure off families, who are already struggling – and when children are well fed, sometimes the whole family is, too. It really does make a world of difference and, most importantly, it is dignified access to food and engaging activities.

Poverty of opportunity

Over the past seven years, we have seen a “slow burner” effect as standards have never improved for families and, in many cases, they have been worsened, first by COVID-19, and now by the cost of living crisis.

While prices have gone up massively across the board, benefits and wages don’t match the reality of daily living. The traditional image of an older person struggling to “heat or eat” is long gone, and people of all ages are now struggling to do either.

There is also the growing issue of poverty of opportunity for many young people, not just in Dundee but across the country. We live in a world that is being more and more monitised – and as resources become scarce due to lack of funding at government level, we are seeing more and more people generally being priced out of so many opportunities, which we all used to take for granted. We are very good at targeting support at the people we know are struggling but I see many more cases of in-work poverty, which is not being supported properly, and will become a massive issue if left unchecked.

Food poverty is a symptom of a poverty of everything else – if a family is struggling to put food on the table, it’s more than likely they won’t be able to support other basics. For example, I have worked with children who have never been to their local theatre, zoo, museum or beach, let alone been out of the city on holiday in the UK or abroad, which is shocking. How can you begin to dream bigger than your circumstances when your world is so narrow?

What’s more, school systems are struggling to cope with the level of welfare they need to tackle before they can begin teaching a child. Lack of resource in schools is a huge issue, and it’s frightening to see the cuts to resources in an area we know is already so stretched and doing so much with so little.

Two people wearing blue tshirts load boxes into an open car boot.
Dundee Bairns volunteers

Looking ahead

Dundee Bairns has grown so quickly in the last few years, and we have expanded our support with a wide range of programmes. Our new Bairns at Home project, for example, was started in September last year, and we have seen some absolutely mind-blowing results from it already – 60,000 items distributed to over 650 families with 6,000 children in just six months! While this project is very new, it has been a real game-changer for the third sector in Dundee, and we hope to deliver much more in the coming year. We also have funding to develop our Tea Club project, and we will shortly be employing a new member of staff to help us grow our food programmes from a nutritional point of view.

Although Dundee Bairns is working hard to support children and families across the city, it’s hard to think of our work as a “success” because the reasons we exist are not happy ones.

Food poverty for children could be tackled better by school food provision – at the moment, the provision is very limited, particularly for secondary school children. Many cost-cutting initiatives have been brought in to make meals at school fit a certain ideological criteria, and the result has been hungrier not healthier children.

Put simply, one school meal a day simply isn’t enough.

For more information on Dundee Bairns, visit www.dundeebairns.org

Member Spotlight

Discover more about the work of Dundee Bairns. Pictured: Genna Millar

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Annual Conference 2024

Join us on 29 & 30 May at Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

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Learning opportunities 2024

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Insight Issue 5

Find out what's inside the latest issue. Illustration by Ally McKay

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Teen cancer survivor and advocate Molly Cuddihy and Natalie Don MSP join impressive line-up for Annual Conference 2024

Children in Scotland has today revealed two more speakers for its Annual Conference 2024, with teen cancer survivor and advocate Molly Cuddihy, and Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise, Natalie Don MSP, joining the packed lineup of expert voices.  

Held in just one month’s time on Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 May at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, the flagship event will bring together delegates, partners and supporters from across the children’s sector, providing opportunities to exchange ideas, network and learn. 

Addressing the conference with a keynote speech on day one, Molly Cuddihy is a passionate advocate for the rights of children and young adults, particularly those living with and progressing from cancer and other serious illness, having been diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer when she was just 15 years old. 

Currently a Youth Ambassador for the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, Molly has a wealth of experience to share with the conference. As co-founder of the charity Every Thank You Counts, and co-ordinator for the acclaimed Radio Therapy podcast (click here for more), which covers themes including mental health, body image and mortality, the inspiring teen will provide fresh perspectives on topics close to her heart. 

Speaking on day two of the conference, Natalie Don MSP, Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise, will discuss a range of issues relevant to children and young people, and the wider sector, providing valuable insights.

Natalie Don MSP said: “I'm really looking forward to what is set to be another amazing event run by Children in Scotland. 

“I was lucky enough to be invited to their 30th Anniversary Networking event last year where I had the pleasure of meeting a number of past and present staff members, and engaged with the amazing members of the Changing Our World children and young people’s advisory group. 

“As this inspirational group has been heavily involved with the development, planning, and workshop selection for the upcoming conference, I know it will be a very interesting and thought-provoking event where experts in a wide variety of areas can get together to discuss issues impacting children.” 

Alongside powerful keynote speeches, informative panel discussions, and engaging workshops, children and young people’s voices will be central to both days of the Annual Conference, with representatives from Changing Our World (CoW) (click here for more) co-chairing the programme. 

Ensuring attendees hear directly from the young Scots they work with and for every day has been a key goal for Children in Scotland when planning the Annual Conference 2024, and further highlights of the programme include co-designed workshops and interactive sessions, covering everything from supporting neurodivergent children to suicide prevention, Artificial Intelligence, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, learning through play, youth homelessness, and many more topics. 

For further information, interviews and all media requests please contact Alice Hinds: ahinds@childreninscotland.org.uk or press@childreninscotland.org.uk

Annual Conference 2024

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Meet our speakers and presenters

Learn more about the experts joining us at our Annual Conference 2024

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Changing our World

Supported by Yopa, Changing our World is our children and young people’s advisory group

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Understanding violence between girls in Scotland

Aiming to better understand the reasons behind violence between girls, and the ways practitioners working with young women can help to reduce its harms, YouthLink Scotland has released a new report in partnership with the No Knives, Better Lives (NKBL) programme.

Here, Emily Beever​​​​, Senior Development Officer with NKBL shares key findings from The Lassies are No Feart report, which was informed by young women’s experiences.

Children have a right to grow up safely and reach their full potential, and with the Scottish Government’s ambition to make Scotland the best place to grow up, preventing youth violence is a crucial priority.

Although there has been a 58% decrease in violent crime since 2008/09, that downward trend has stalled in recent years. So, when practitioners in the No Knives, Better Lives network (click here for more) reported violence between girls and young women was increasing in frequency and severity, we needed to find out directly from young women.

The Lassies are No Feart report, released April 29, summarises the findings from a small-scale qualitative piece of research with young women and practitioners – here are some of the things they told us about their experiences.

Accessing adult support

Young women told us it was hard to access support from adults to resolve conflict and bullying that could lead to violence. Young people felt adults didn’t care or couldn’t understand their concerns, and they were wary of judgemental responses.

Additionally, young women felt they couldn’t confide in an adult as they would be labelled a ‘snitch’ by their peers. Some young women were also worried about sharing their worries with their family, while others felt conflict had reach to an emergency situation before adults cared enough to act.

“They [teachers] just… they don’t realise when you tell them stuff you’re genuinely, you’re asking for help. You’re trying to get them to help you and sort the situation out or something but they just wait until you’re in hospital.” (Young woman)

Family ties

The young women involved in the report were loyal to and protective of their families. Some young people and practitioners shared how families played a role in supporting violence. Loyalty to families meant that challenging values and behaviour was difficult for teachers and youth workers.

“My mum was so happy when I hit [name].” (Young woman)

Violence as a tool

Young women told us they struggled to manage their emotions and reactions when they perceived disrespect from peers – physical violence was a tool to deal with disrespect towards family, friends or themselves. In these instances, young women felt justified in taking violent action, and some were sceptical that disrespect could ever be prevented.

“Yeah, sometimes when like people push your buttons or whatever and say something to them, you’ve hit them because you don’t know what else to do. Then you end up just using violence.” (Young woman)

Violent content on social media

Young women were both ‘viewers’ and ‘producers’ of violent content on social media. They spoke of daily exposure to graphic violent content, such as fights and extreme animal cruelty.

Violent content was easy to find proactively, with anonymous accounts dedicated to violence requesting videos from young people, and also using marketing techniques to prompt clicks and views, such as ‘teasers’ of fights and sending videos in direct messaging. On the other hand, violence could be seen unintentionally by opening someone’s ‘Story’. The frequent exposure led to desensitisation.

“I'm so used to seeing like videos like all the time, so it's just got to the point where it just doesn't [affect me]. I'm just seeing them all the time and I hear about it all the time. Like it happens too often. To like be like, oh, that's a shame, because there's like too much videos.” (Young woman)

Call to action

We want this report to be a call to action for all those working with girls and young women to take their challenges seriously. There is a need to better understand whether the experiences we heard about are more widespread, and crucially, we need to involve young women in the solutions.

No Knives, Better Lives (click here for more) works in partnership with young people and practitioners to understand and address the causes and drivers of youth violence. It is run by YouthLink Scotland (click here for more), the national agency for youth work and the collective voice of the sector.

To read the full The Lassies are No Feart report, including a young person’s version, click here

Get in touch with the NKBL team, email: nkbl@youthlink.scot

About the Author

Emily Beever is Senior Development Officer with the No Knives, Better Lives programme

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Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland introduces new four-year plan

The office of the Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland (CYPCS) has released its plan for the next four years, putting children and young people’s experiences, insights, views and opinions at the heart of its goals and strategy.

Released April 19, the Plan 2024-28 was formed by reviewing more than 130 pieces of evidence and research on children and young people’s views, and analysing responses from over 5,000 children and young people, who engaged with a survey asking for their opinions. The CYPCS team also travelled across Scotland, speaking with 375 children and young people during engagement sessions, and reaching a further 7,000 through online assemblies.

The main areas of focus for CYPCS, as identified by children and young people, will be education, poverty, mental health, discrimination, and climate change – and the “golden thread” through each of these issues will be getting young people more involved in decision-making.

Commissioner Nicola Killean, who took up her role in 2023, said: “We’ve had an incredibly busy few months listening to children tell us what they want us to work on and their views came through loud and clear. Their most important priorities are poverty, education, and mental health, and climate change and discrimination are also important issues for us. Threading through this was that they often aren’t involved in all decisions that affect their lives, and they have a right to be.

“Our new plan has been built around children and young people’s views. It lays out my commitment and duties to protect and promote children’s rights and to hold to account those responsible for delivering on them.

“I’m excited get to work on these priorities, with children and young people guiding our work every step of the way.”

To find out more about the Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland’s Plan 2024-28, click here to visit the website

Nicola Killean will co-chair the first day of our upcoming Annual Conference 2024, sharing duties with a member of our young people’s advisory group, Changing our World (CoW). For more information and to buy tickets, click here to visit our conference hub

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Looking forward in gloomy times

Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard, once sang Chris Martin. And that could be said to be true of my now two and a half years with Children in Scotland.

While I love the organisation and it is a real privilege to have this role, navigating the twin menaces of COVID-19 and the cost-of-living crisis has proven to be quite the challenge. While different charities have distinct challenges, a common thread is how to keep and build a resilient organisation.

Since my first day, I have been looking back over my shoulder at the menaces as they have tried to catch us and grind us down. This year we have had to unfortunately make unwanted changes to the organisation, including having to say goodbye to three valuable and experienced members of staff, as well as having to reduce hours for another three.

This is something that we are increasingly seeing across the charity sector (and, indeed, beyond). The SCVO tracker (click here for more) gives a good insight into the current reality for Scotland’s third sector. What is worrying is that this is happening at a time when demand for the services of charities working with and for children and young people is higher than ever.

At difficult times like these, it is always necessary to pause and think, so I thought I would share a few of my emerging reflections.

An inevitable cycle?

While this current situation has been brought on by the poisonous combination of COVID-19 and the cost-of-living crisis, were we to take a historical look at the charity sector, we would see many such moments when the economic situation has made it difficult for charities and the wider third sector.

So, unless we create new economic models, we have to see this as the long-term context we are operating in. There will be times of plenty and times of scarcity, and our job will be to navigate our organisations through this constantly changing environment. This is not the unusual, but the usual.

Are we resilient enough?

We know that the charities that come through such crises best are ones that have built the best levels of resilience. We also know that for large parts of the charity sector, building this resilience is difficult.

We all probably recognise the shoogly combination of the challenge of full cost recovery through project funding, the difficulty of funding the core functions through grants, the sometimes restrictive nature of the commissioning relationships we have, and the short-term nature of many of the grants and other funding streams, which we rely on to do our work.

As a result, we often find it difficult to even build the minimum level of reserves.

We are often on a bit of a hamster wheel, running fast just to keep us financially healthy in the short-term, leaving us little capacity to work on income generation that might be more relevant to long-term sustainability – and might actually allow us to have a rest from the wheel now and again.

Within Children in Scotland, we will be thinking about how to find the time and resource to better invest in long-term sustainability. I think we have done some good things on this, and I am thankful that we do have a level of resilience. I am also confident that, having made changes at the start of this year, we are now in a stronger financial position. However, there is more to be done for the medium and longer term, and I need to find time and the necessary resources to do this work well.

Does collaboration go far enough?

Ultimately the charity sector is set up to be lots of independent stars in a rich, twinkly galaxy. In Charity Law, charity trustees have to consider the best interests of their charity, not the charity sector as a whole. So, there is ultimately a ‘selfish’ aspect to the way we are created and, indeed, the way we have to act, particularly when there is competition for resources.

In practice, the charity sector can be, and often is, very collaborative. We know that the power of the sector is greater the more we can bring our different strengths together. However, there is possibly a question about whether or not we could do more to collaborate to build the resilience of the sector as a whole.

I’m not sure quite what this looks like yet, but I have a real question about how we can do more to make the most of economies of scale across the whole sector. There have been some good initiatives in the past. For instance, creating shared spaces for charities, looking at how to create economies of scale in core costs, looking at sharing expertise across various organisations, and so on.

A more difficult question is whether we have the strength and capacity to have even more difficult conversations. Some of the most difficult conversations that some organisations I know have had is when they have realised there might be value in even closer collaboration, even the possibility of a merger. However, I am not sure that as a sector we are as strong as we need to be at having these difficult conversations in a safe way.

Making the most of the moment

I imagine I will be involved in many conversations about resilience over the next wee while. What I want to explore is what more we can do for our members and our wider network as we explore this issue. How can we help build better funding models? How can we work together to demand better commissioning? How can we collaborate better together both in terms of cost savings, but also in terms of releasing or creating new, independent income streams? How can we create space to have the creative conversations to make all this happen?

I am open to ideas, conversations and debates. So please get in touch if you have something you want to share, sound out or just get off your chest.

Ultimately, the drive needs to be towards how we can support the sector as a whole to be more resilient so that we can all twinkle as brightly as possible.

Judith will give more insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the charity sector during her keynote speech at our Annual Conference 2024 on 29-30 May at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. 

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