skip to main content
Accessibility
help

Understanding the key issues parents in Scotland face today

To understand the key issues parents and those in a parenting roles face today, Parenting across Scotland worked with social research agency, The Lines Between, to examine research involving over 4000 parents and carers in Scotland. With the final report launching on 4 June, Policy and Engagement Officer, Arran Goodfellow, explains how report findings will be used to influence change.  

Over the next few years Parenting across Scotland will be working hard to bring the parenting voice to national and local policymakers and to service providers, setting and illuminating the agenda for what needs to change, and catalysing improvements in policy and practice.

With a new staff team recently in post, one of our first objectives was to understand the key issues, challenges and priorities faced by parents and those in a parenting role in Scotland today. Before conducting any of our own work, it was important for us to understand the research that already existed to get an idea of the current landscape.

After a competitive invitation to tender process at the end of last year, we commissioned The Lines Between, a social research agency, to conduct a review of research focusing on the lived experience and needs of parents and those in a parenting role in Scotland in 2023.

Their final report examines research with over 4000 parents and carers across 26 local authorities in Scotland. There are various groups of parent-carers involved, including:

  • single parents,
  • black or minority ethnic parents,
  • disabled parents or parents with disabled children,
  • refugees,
  • parents seeking asylum,
  • carers,
  • parents with care experience,
  • parents who have had a child put into the care system,
  • adoptive parents

Many of the key challenges facing those in parenting roles in the report came as no surprise to us – particularly poverty, financial insecurity, mental health, education and childcare. But they are still shocking nonetheless.

We are heartened to have a diverse range of voices reflected in the report, and are aware that with intersectionality, some families will face even harsher realities than those presented. Our hope is that the final report provides a strong basis of existing knowledge for the third sector to draw on and something that we at Parenting across Scotland can use to help influence change, our work and policy priority areas.

We will be launching the report at a webinar on Tuesday 4 June from 1:30-2:30pm. This will include a presentation from the authors, The Lines Between, who will share the report’s key findings and give attendees a chance to ask any questions. If you are interested in joining, please email info@parentingacrossscotland.org

About the Author

Arran Goodfellow is the Policy and Engagement Officer at Parenting across Scotland.

Click here for more

Annual Conference 2024

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

Click here to book

Participation and engagement work

Find out more about how we embed the inclusion and participation of children and young people in our work

Click here for more

Safety. Sorted! Helping families to keep their children safer this Child Safety Week

Ahead of Child Safety Week (Monday 3 – Sunday 9 June 2024), Katrina Phillips OBE, Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) outlines how you can help to make children safer by sharing helpful, practical advice with the families you work with.

Child Safety Week is the Child Accident Prevention Trust’s annual community education campaign, aiming to equip and empower families with the confidence and skills to manage the real risks to children’s safety.

We want all children to have the freedom to grow and learn, safe from serious harm. However, in many disadvantaged communities, families have less opportunities to learn about safety, meaning children are at greater risk of a serious accident.

Sadly, one Scottish child dies each month due to an accident, and 1 in 13 emergency admissions to hospital are caused by accidents (Public Health Scotland). So reaching families and giving them the skills and knowledge to keep their children safe is vital.

With your help, we can make all children safer.

Safety. Sorted!

We want to make it as easy as possible for families to get safety sorted. For parents and carers to feel confident that, with just one small change, they can stop a serious accident happening. And for families to be clear what they need to do to keep their children safe.

That’s why this year’s Child Safety Week theme is “Safety. Sorted!”

We’re sharing small, easy-to-make changes that fit with hectic family life. Our Child Safety Week Parents’ Pack contains bite-sized facts and safety tips on the main accident risks to children, allowing families to make simple changes that can fit into busy routines.

We appreciate how much families value the crucial support of practitioners in their community in helping them to navigate the early years and stay one step ahead of their child’s development.

We also understand that there are real pressures on your time spent with families. With this in mind, we’ve made it easier than ever to get involved with Child Safety Week and help families keep their children safe.

Everything you need, all in one place

To help you get safety sorted for Child Safety Week, we’ve brought all our resources for practitioners together in one place.

Visit our resource centre, packed with free downloadable resources covering all topics, whatever you choose to focus on this Child Safety Week, or in your accident prevention work throughout the year. You can search by safety topic and resource type, so however you share information with families, you can find what you need.

Brand new for this year, we’ve launched a display pack of colourful posters covering many safety topics to help you create an eye-catching Child Safety Week display for families visiting your setting.

And if you’re looking for inspiration and ideas on how to bring Child Safety Week to life, whether you’re running an event or putting on a display in your setting, you’ll find everything you need on our Child Safety Week hub to help support you in your work with vulnerable families.

Let’s work together to get safety sorted.

Click here for more about Child Safety Week

Click here to grab your free Child Safety Week resources

Click here to sign up to get safety alerts, top tips and resources straight to your inbox.

About the Author

Katrina Phillips OBE is the Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust

Click here for more

Child Safety Week

Looking for inspiration on how to bring Child Safety Week to life, explore the hub.

Click here for more

Annual Conference 2024

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

Click here to book

Sustainability at #CiSAC24: Making the environment more than a conference buzzword

With our Annual Conference just two weeks away, our Communications and Marketing Manager, Julie Thomson, highlights some of the ways that Children in Scotland staff are working with children and young people to make the event more environmentally friendly.

When I first joined Children in Scotland a year ago, some of their ways of working were quite new to me. The comms team invested a lot of time crafting great digital-only publications, like the Learning Guide (click here for more), for example, and my first reaction was – why don’t we print these and get them into distribution? The answer was simple and to the point. Because the young people we work with wanted us to be a more sustainable organisation, and reducing our print output was a big part of that.  

It didn’t take me long to see just how extensive the co-working relationship was between the organisation’s staff and young people's advisory group, Changing our World (click here for more), and the positive impact this had across the board. Sustainability is firmly on the agenda, and every decision – from our use of AI, to the menu options at our events – is considered in the context of its environmental impact. There is a real sense that not only are we working smarter for our planet, but that we are promoting the voices of children and young people across our work, which is exactly what our vision (click here for more) states. 

It came as no surprise then that after engaging with Changing our World on our Annual Conference 2024 (click here for more) planning, sustainability was a key driver. Here are just a few of the ways that Children in Scotland is trying to make the event more environmentally friendly this year.  

Cutting down our conference programme 

It may seem like a small contribution to reducing paper consumption, but ultimately one that we hope is a step in the right direction in our sustainability journey. This year we have reduced the pages in our printed conference programme by 37.5% and have created an online hub to house further details – like speaker bios and exhibitor information. This event will give us a chance to assess delegate feedback on the online parts of the programme, as well as find the important balance between promoting digital channels and keeping everyone ‘present’ for what is ultimately a fairly rare in-person, non-digital, learning experience. Our hope is that we will strike this balance and strive to make the conference programme fully digital in 2025.  

Murrayfield – again?? 

Our last annual conference in 2022 took place at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, and we are aware that in different times, the expectation may have been to move to a new city or venue every year. There are some very good, and sustainable, reasons why we haven’t done this in 2024. As anyone in the events game will know, scoping out new venues takes a lot of time, effort – and mileage – to get something appropriate in place. By choosing to go back to venue well known to us, we have significantly cut down our road miles. Furthermore, the fact that Murrayfield is so well served by transport links across Scotland, it allows us to encourage the use of public transport to reach our event. 

The menu 

There is substantial evidence emerging that vegetarian and vegan diets have a significantly lower environmental impact than those that use meat products. While we’re not here to preach to anyone about dietary choices (or indeed lack thereof – one meat-appreciating coeliac here, living in a household with multiple other food allergies...), we have decided to make more sustainable and inclusive choices for our annual conference lunch menu. All standard menu choices will be vegetarian or vegan, with dietary requirements also catered for. With just a couple of weeks to go, our catering order sits at 80% vegetarian and 20% vegan.  

Ditching the delegate bags 

There is growing concern around the environmental impact of textile production, and just because your delegate bag is made of cotton and can be reused or recycled, doesn’t mean you will keep it forever, or that it will one day complete its unreliable journey to becoming your next pair of socks. Reducing consumption of these products is really the most effective way of being sustainable, and we’ve taken that on board with the decision not to offer delegate bags at our 2024 Annual Conference.  

And it’s not just the bag itself. With our renewed focus on sustainability, Children in Scotland pens, notebooks, and printed flyers are all a thing of the past – instead, look out for our QR codes around the event to find out more information about our work (I’m not sure how many QR codes you can fit on one printed A4 page, but you know we’ll be going for the world record!) 

A journey to sustainability  

I mentioned a sustainability journey earlier and I’ll come back to this point. We want to do the very best to meet every expectation for this event – whether in the quality of the speakers, in the connections that we are creating between people in the sector, the varied learning, or indeed the sustainability aspects. Small steps, rather than giant leaps, help create balance between these sometimes-competing concepts. One thing we can be sure of is that we are now in the right direction of travel, with the voices of children and young people firmly guiding our path.  

Tickets are still available for our two-day Annual Conference on 29-30 May at Murrayfield Stadium. Click here to find out more and book your place. 

About the Author

Julie Thomson is Communications and Marketing Manager at Children in Scotland.

Click here for more

Annual Conference 2024

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

Click here to book

Participation and engagement work

Find out more about how we embed the inclusion and participation of children and young people in our work

Click here for more

A new First Minister for Scotland, and time to assess priorities

Following last week's appointment of a new First Minister for Scotland, David Mackay, Head of Policy, Projects and Participation at Children in Scotland, reflects on John Swinney's initial commitment to the eradication of child poverty, and what needs to be done now to achieve long-term change. 

As the dust begins to settle after what had been a rollercoaster few weeks in Scottish politics, we emerge with a new First Minister with a clear focus on tackling what he describes as “the curse” that is child poverty.

During press questions after he was elected leader of the Scottish National Party, John Swinney stated that his “principal policy interest” was eradicating child poverty in Scotland. The passion and determination in Mr Swinney’s response was heartening to hear and warmly welcomed by organisations working across the children’s sector who see the damaging impact of child poverty on a daily basis.

At Children in Scotland, our key aim is supporting all children and young people to flourish. As a member of the End Child Poverty Coalition in Scotland, we have campaigned for interventions to reduce child poverty in Scotland. Key successes in recent years have been the expansion of free school meals and the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment, both of which are having a positive impact for some families who are struggling.

Despite these successes, and child poverty having been a key focus for previous First Ministers, we are still living in a Scotland where one in four children (approximately 240,000) are living in poverty. Scotland is also a country with widening inequalities, and the impact of this can be seen in our national public health data. With an ongoing cost-of-living crisis and public service cuts being introduced in different areas of the country, the child poverty interventions we have made to date alone are not enough to turn the tide. Although positive, they are an insufficient sticking plaster on a bigger problem.

So what can we do to tackle this problem? In his speech, Mr Swinney invited us to watch his government's progress on tackling child poverty. However Children in Scotland, our members, and our partners across the sector, don't want to just watch, we want to work together with the Scottish Government and MSPs to achieve our common goal of eradicating child poverty.

Children in Scotland is writing to Mr Swinney outlining our key asks and inviting him to meet with our Children's Sector Strategic and Policy Forum. To make the change he wants to see, we must ensure there is a sustainable children's sector, where charities and not-for-profit organisations are fairly funded and can plan ahead, and impactful statutory children's services are protected from cuts.

We must also make the most of the upcoming United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child legislation by applying a child-rights lens to all our policy decisions and budgeting, and ensuring there is policy coherence across the different areas of government. This will help to ensure all children are protected in this challenging financial climate.

In the short term, we can and must do more. A positive initial step for Mr Swinney would be to take immediate action to increase the Scottish Child Payment. Back in December 2023, the End Child Poverty Coalition in Scotland campaigned for an uplift to £30 per week ahead of the Scottish Budget, however the announced increase fell short of our calls. We regularly hear from our members that the safety net for families is being pulled away. Many families are living in crisis and short-term action to tackle child poverty is essential alongside a longer-term route map.

As Scotland’s new First Minister, Mr Swinney has inherited a long to-do list. But, as we all know, a to-do list is nothing without prioritisation. We are pleased to hear eradicating child poverty will be the number one priority at the heart of Mr Swinney’s government, and Children in Scotland and our network look forward to working collaboratively with him to make this a reality.

A greyscale image of a smiling person with short dark hair and wearing a light coloured shirt. The image sits inside a pink speech bubble

About the Author

David Mackay is Head of Policy, Projects and Participation at Children in Scotland.

Meet our team

Latest News

Visit our news pages to read the latest from Scotland's children's sector.

Click here for more

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

Click here for more

Annual Conference 2024

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

Click here to book

Our membership offer

Be part of the largest national children's sector membership organisation in Scotland

Click here for more

Participation and engagement work

Find out more about how we embed the inclusion and participation of children and young people in our work

Click here for more

Our services

We offer we offer a range of services that provide support, advice and representation for children and families

Click here for more

Learning opportunities 2024

Discover our learning programme for the year ahead

Click here for more

Insight Issue 5

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

Click here for more

Children need a playful world to thrive and survive

As we gear up for our Annual Conference later this month, we hear from With Kids, who will be leading one of the 25 thought-provoking workshops taking place across the two-day event.

Improving the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children, With Kids offer early therapeutic intervention by skilled and experienced therapeutic staff to help every child to flourish.

Ahead of presenting a workshop on child trauma during day two of our conference, we speak to Play Therapist and Clinical Supervisor, Jeanne McLaughlin, about why play is so critical for every child’s development.  

The team at With Kids are experts in play therapy, why is play such a powerful means for understanding and supporting children? 

Playfulness is an evolutionary strategy that allows human beings to attune to their internal state and engage others. It has no construct, no framework, no purpose and is spontaneously in the here and now. It is a way of “being” rather than doing and prerequisite for play to happen. Children need a playful world to thrive and survive, even in the most difficult environments or situations.

As a nondirective child led play therapist, my job is to step into the playful world of the child and see things through their eyes. This does not mean play must always be fun and joyful. Play can evoke a sense of fear or discomfort such as when a child spins around until they feel sick or puts out all the lights to sit in the dark with a torch. Playfulness is the process that children instinctively understand helps relieve internal physical and emotional anxiety. Children unfettered by layers of adult experience  can swing easily through emotions of joy, fear, anger, confusion and back again. They seem to know that to be spontaneously playful releases the feel-good chemicals into the body such as serotonin, dopamine and reduces the release of cortisol, all without adult direction.

With Kids runs projects in different communities, including a 13-year project in the East End of Glasgow and two projects in Wester Hailes and the South West of Edinburgh. Why is it important to be integrated within the communities of the children and families you are working with?

The communities that we work in are at a socioeconomic disadvantage with intergenerational patterns of trauma and disrupted relational attachment bonds. With Kids sits in the heart of the community with a focus on building relationships, resiliency and offering support to help families make independent changes in their lives. We know from experience that supporting lasting change in a community needs a long-term viewpoint with children and families playing an active role at With Kids events and groups.

With Kids team are often developing their knowledge and practice. Are there any new areas of research you are currently exploring?

At With Kids, we run the MSc in Play Therapy at Queen Margaret University (click here for more) and have an input to the new MSc Infant Mental Health at University of Glasgow (click here for more). As an established centre of Play Therapy in Scotland we work extensively with the age group three to 11 years. In the last five years we have been working to develop an infant mental health programme that helps to support vulnerable parents understand and respond to their baby in a way that creates a stable foundation to the attachment relationship.

What are you looking forward to experiencing at this year’s Annual Conference?

Children in Scotland are an innovative and forward-thinking organisation who put children at the centre of all their projects and training. They ensure that children’s voices are strong and heard. The conference events are always a delight with shared knowledge and experience from a range of third sector organisations, policy makers and children’s workforce. This year is exciting with so many great speakers and workshops, we cannot decide what to book first! (The solution - book them all!) We are looking forward to meeting other delegates, presenting and being part of the change in how we think about children’s experiences.

Join Jeanne and the team at With Kids at our Annual Conference on 29-30 May at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Click here to find out more and book your place. 

About the Author

Jeanne McLaughlin is a Play Therapist and Clinical Supervisor working at With Kids for 12 years.

Click here for more

Annual Conference 2024

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

Click here to book

Our services

We offer we offer a range of services that provide support, advice and representation for children and families

Click here for more

We can all be allies

Since 2019, The Allies Project has supported unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked young people to build individual and community resilience by creating a psychosocial group offering a much-needed shared space for accessing mental health support.

Ahead of presenting a workshop at our Annual Conference next month, Aberlour’s Wellbeing Coordinators, Alexis Wright and Lorna New, share how the programme is building resilience and supporting recovery.

The Allies Project is a psychosocial group for unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people run jointly by Guardianship Scotland, a partnership project of Aberlour and the Scottish Refugee Council, which works with young unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked young people across Scotland and the Glasgow Psychological Trauma Service (The Anchor), a specialist NHS trauma service that has a remit to work with unaccompanied young people in Glasgow, who have experienced mental health difficulties linked to trauma experiences.

The Allies Project partnership was developed to offer unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked young people an alternative and/or addition to mainstream psychological service and to provide a much-needed shared space for young people to find mental health support.

The Allies group programme was developed to respond to the trauma experiences and effects on unaccompanied young people. It prevents re-traumatisation by building on the trauma-informed practice of Guardianship Scotland, which embeds the principles of safety, trust, choice, collaboration, empowerment, peer support, and cultural humility in all its work. It builds resilience and supports recovery by being a strengths-based programme, acknowledging the survival skills of young people, increasing their social support and opportunities for community integration, and sharing psychosocial skills and expertise through a partnership with a specialist trauma service. It is also a relationships-based programme - building quality relationships between young people, their guardians, community organisations and the trauma service.

Young people who attend the group have experienced significant trauma without access to protective factors or support from loved ones to buffer the effects of trauma. They are unaccompanied without caregivers, family or friends and have to face multiple challenges alone with no certainty of what the future holds or who if anyone will come by their side in years to come.

The group is psychosocial, building and resourcing both individual and community resilience in the face of the multiple traumas and losses these young people have faced. The Allies group programme teaches young people coping strategies to help them manage symptoms of trauma, anxiety, stress, and tension. It helps them understand how their experiences as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child and trafficked child impacts their feelings of safety, relationships, identity, and access to justice. We support young people to acknowledge their strength in what they have already faced, which we believe is critical for their future growth and development. We help them reflect on their past, while identifying their strengths and aspirations for the future.

We have learned that quite often services and professionals who are not experienced in supporting unaccompanied young people can feel overwhelmed with the complexity of their needs and circumstances. We welcome you all to our workshop on the 30th of May where we will explain our Allies group programme, share our learning on the complex needs of this group of young people and how we respond. There will be time for attendees to reflect on what they do and can do to support this client group. We can all be allies.

Interested in learning more? Guardianship Scotland will be presenting a workshop about The Allies Project at our Annual Conference on 30 May.
Click here to find out more about the conference 

About the Author

Alexis Wright (top) and Lorna New (bottom) are Wellbeing Coordinators with the Guardianship Scotland

Click here for more

Annual Conference 2024

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

Click here to book

Our services

We offer we offer a range of services that provide support, advice and representation for children and families

Click here for more

Participation and engagement work

Find out more about how we embed the inclusion and participation of children and young people in our work

Click here for more

Our membership offer

Be part of the largest national children's sector membership organisation in Scotland

Click here for more

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

Click here for more

Annual Conference 2024

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

Click here to book

Participation and engagement work

Find out more about how we embed the inclusion and participation of children and young people in our work

Click here for more

Our services

We offer we offer a range of services that provide support, advice and representation for children and families

Click here for more

Our membership offer

Be part of the largest national children's sector membership organisation in Scotland

Click here for more

Why child healthy weight matters

With rates of overweight and obesity in children continuing to rise over the past five years, Obesity Action Scotland are campaigning to change the trajectory. Ahead of presenting a workshop at our annual conference, Interim Programme Lead, Jennifer Forsyth, examines what needs to be done to deliver a healthy weight childhood for all children.

Child healthy weight matters. It’s a clear message but sadly it’s not the reality for many children living in Scotland today. Rates of overweight and obesity in children are continuing to rise. The latest data paints a stark picture. A third of children aged 2-15 are at risk of overweight and obesity, and 18% are at risk of obesity. And these outcomes aren’t experienced equally. There are clear links to poverty and deprivation. Children in the most deprived fifth of the population, by SIMD quintile, are more than twice as likely to be at risk of overweight and obesity than their least deprived peers.

This matters because children at risk of obesity are much more likely to have obesity as adults. Obesity in childhood also has a profound impact on children’s physical and mental health and wellbeing, which impacts on the ability of children to live happy and healthy lives.

In 2018, the Scottish Government published their Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan (click here for more) which outlined a commitment to halve childhood obesity by 2030, but more than five years on, we’re heading in completely the wrong direction.

So, what are the reasons for this trajectory?

There are of course many reasons, but three of the main ones are price, availability, and marketing and advertising of unhealthy food. We know that healthy food costs up to twice as much as unhealthy food, and the most deprived fifth of households need to spend half of their disposable incomes on food to meet the Government recommended healthy diet, compared to just 11% of disposable income in least deprived fifth.

Unhealthy food is more heavily promoted than healthier alternatives, and these promotions often lead to impulse purchases that consumers didn’t intend to make. Alongside such promotions, there is clear evidence of clustering of unhealthy food outlets in more deprived areas. This creates so called ‘food desserts’ where there is limited availability of healthy food.

And this unhealthy food is heavily marketed and advertised. This advertising is everywhere, on television, online and in public spaces, and is of particular relevance to children, as we know children are strongly influenced by this advertising and marketing activity. Exposure to unhealthy food advertising can lead to increased overall calorie intake in children and results in a higher chance of them preferring the advertised product when making food choices.

A healthy diet is simply unaffordable and not available for many families, and this is contributing to growing levels of overweight and obesity in children.

So, what can be done?

The good news is we know what works. Over the last year, Obesity Action Scotland has undertaken a range of activities to grow the evidence base to support what we know works.

We worked with researchers at the University of Glasgow to undertake an in-depth longitudinal analysis of the Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) survey (click here for more). The research and report used the GUS survey data and looked at weight outcomes at 3 points in childhood and adolescence – age 4, 10 and 14 to look at patterns over different age points and consider links with aspects of deprivation. The headline findings from the research indicate a strong relationship between obesity and deprivation – there are clear links between both living in a deprived area and household income with obesity, and the inequality experienced grows and widens as children get older.

Given the strong influence of advertising and marketing on children’s diets, we were keen to get first hand views from young people on their experiences. The Scottish Obesity Alliance (click here for more), which we’re the secretariat for, undertook a youth advocacy project with researchers from the University of Glasgow. Key findings from the project highlight that young people report they are exposed to high levels of unhealthy food marketing every day - they felt there was too much of it, and that food marketing regulations are needed to better protect young people. The title of the report (and accompanying short animation) ‘Adverts, adverts everywhere’ (click here for more) was actually a quote from one of the young people involved in the project and powerfully showcases the sheer scale of advertising and marketing young people are exposed to in their daily lives.

Since last summer, we’ve been running a campaign on child healthy weight. The aim is to raise awareness of the growing levels of childhood obesity, the significant health impact this is having, and the need for bold and urgent policy action. We launched the campaign in Scottish Parliament in June last year, where we gained the support of over 30 MSPs, and since then have been reaching out and engaging with a range of organisations to get their support. We recently submitted a joint letter (click here for more) signed by a wide range of organisations to the relevant Scottish Government ministers and await their response.

These activities highlight that if we want to deliver a healthy weight childhood for all children, we need to take a systemic approach to address the underlying causes of the growing levels of child obesity, namely poverty and the unhealthy food environment. We need politicians to take bold and urgent action to alter this trajectory, and to follow through with proposed evidence-based interventions we know work and will have a real impact. Child healthy weight matters. We now need the policy action to make it a reality for all children.

Interested in learning more? Obesity Action Scotland will be one of the 25 illuminating workshops taking place at our Annual Conference 2024. Click here to find out more and book your place. 

About the Author

Jennifer Forsyth is the Interim Programme Lead at Obesity Action Scotland

Click here for more

Annual Conference 2024

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

Click here to book

Participation and engagement work

Find out more about how we embed the inclusion and participation of children and young people in our work

Click here for more

Our membership offer

Be part of the largest national children's sector membership organisation in Scotland

Click here for more

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. 

Interested in finding out more? Click here to explore our Annual Conference

Event: Getting Your Governance Right

Join Judith Turbyne for an informative webinar on Thursday, April 18

Click here to book

Annual Conference 2024

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

Click here to book

Participation and engagement work

Find out more about how we embed the inclusion and participation of children and young people in our work

Click here for more

Our membership offer

Be part of the largest national children's sector membership organisation in Scotland

Click here for more

Our services

We offer we offer a range of services that provide support, advice and representation for children and families

Click here for more

Our staff

Find out more about who works at Children in Scotland

Have a look

Vision and values

Read more about the guiding principles of our work

Click here